Tuesday, December 27, 2011

5 Things Post Christmas

1) Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend.  Mine was good.  A little quiet at times, which was nice.  NOT white, which was also nice.  Spent a good portion of it not doing a whole lot of anything.... again, nice.  Now there's a to do list a mile long and I'm sure it will get longer as winter trudges on and spring gets closer.

2) Movies:  I love movies.  I'm the type of person who can watch some movies repeatedly and not get tired of them.  Needless to say, this was a weekend full of movies.  Along with "The Black Stallion" and "Secretariat" which I'd seen before, I also saw several that were new (or new to me)... including:
  • War Horse -- B rating from me at best.  It's a combination of Steven Speilberg's epicness.... Disney... war... and a PG-13 rating.  Somewhere in trying to combine all of that, something gets lost.  It's essentially Black Beauty at war, but I think the editing is a little choppy.  Just when I started to get REALLY engrossed in what the horse was going through, BAM... editing takes me away from that.  And the war part was boiled down (a little to a LOT depending on the scene) so you didn't even get the "war is hell" aspect like what I got from a movie like "Saving Private Ryan".  I'd have to say one of the best scenes in the movie was the no-man's land rescue.  I won't say more than that about specifics, but I can completely see that happening (other than the outcome for the horse which was very Disney'd).  Oh, and the ending, while nice and sappy, was over the top -- got the feeling I was transported into a viewing of Gone with the Wind.  Glad I saw it, but also glad it was at matinee prices
  • Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows -- A- from me.  Very entertaining.  Almost as good as the original.  The plot was a LITTLE thin in places, but still... quality entertainment.  I'm a huge Robert Downey Jr. fan and now that he's clean there simply is almost no one better in Hollywood in my opinion.  The man is amazing to watch.  I'm not big on Jude Law, but he does make a good sidekick to Holmes' outrageousness.  Definitely worth seeing.
  • The Hangover -- B++ from me.  I hesitate to give it an A- rating only because I guess I'm stingy.  Yes, I know this came out a while ago, so I'll spare you the amateur analysis of the movie. It was very funny and I enjoyed it a lot.  Probably one of the best fratboy humor movies I've seen and definitely one of the few that I would see again.  I'm looking forward to seeing The Hangover II as I've been told it's just as, if not more funny.
3) Drew up plans to fence in the front acreage.  Also did a ballpark cost estimate on it -- putting no climb fencing around it as well as nice looking board fencing along the road, plus gates.  Ouch.  Time to start saving now.  But it will be worth it to get it done.  Between being able to use it for horses as well as if I want to keep the turkeys in that area, it should look nice and be very functional when all is said and done.

4) Finally took down the turkey fencing.  The t-posts are still up but moved the fence itself over to the pasture to help try to keep the chickens in the pasture.  Did this on Sunday afternoon and the sun was out (a little weird feeling given that it's rained so much lately).  Need to get more temp posts (not going to drive in regular t-posts for that) but part of it is up and I think it might be starting to help.

5) a picture to share.  They came out to help "supervise" the fencing mentioned above.

The picture that was missed was before this when Reilly & I went for a walk around the outside of the pasture.  Buff Puff followed us and Stewie came out to the middle of the pasture to watch us.  About 3/4 the way around, Buff Puff decided to cut through the pasture to catch up to us.  Boy did she ever!!  Stewie decided to chase her and you've never seen a cat move as fast as Buff Puff did when she was being chased by a 15 month old steer!  Girl has some speed!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

5 Things - 2 weeks

1) Nothing major has happened really (although one may argue based on Thing #2), but life at the farm has been fun lately.  A lot has to do with the people that have been around as much as what's been happening.  There have been a few adventures, some reconnecting, long talks, fun games, laughter and hugs... sounds good to me!

2) Update on the land deal.  Long story short, it's not happening this year.  Opted to put it on hold to see where we all land next year as the proposed purchase wasn't quite right for everyone.  So there's a lot to think about between now and then.  Decisions to be made.  Many things were put on hold in order to try to make this happen and the question now is whether they need to continue on hold or if some of them can be done/created/purchased/etc sooner rather than later (and of course what affect that will have on future land purchases).  It's a LOT to consider, but winter is just starting, so there's time to think and reflect and plan before the busy of spring hits.  I'm sure I'll do some "out loud" thinking here as considerations are made.

3) It doesn't seem a lot like the holidays at the moment.  Temps are in the 40s, no snow on the ground (which fyi is fine by me), gray and dreary skies with plenty of mud.  I can't say that I'd rather have snow than mud because that leads to a whole host of other issues - frozen water buckets, iced in doors, higher heating costs -- but the dreary, gray and muddy isn't ideal either.  Guess we'll see what's in store as the winter progresses.

4) Have several indoor projects that need to be worked on.  In addition to the every needed general cleaning, I want to take the several pint jars of pear butter I put up and split them into these adorable cup jars I found at the store.  This way, I can give more away as gifts!  I also need to sit down and go through my clothing and make a (huge I'm sure) pile for Goodwill or Amvets.

5) Sushi & Movie Day is coming up soon.  This will be the 3rd year of the tradition (going for Sushi on or near Christmas and then hitting a matinee movie).  As of last night, we've picked out the movie (the new Sherlock Holmes) and the sushi place (Thai 9) so plans are a go for Saturday.  Really looking forward to it.  In the meantime, getting started on projects from #4 as well as going to the barn to ride.

Have a wonderul holiday week/weekend!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Skipping 5 Things

Since I'm already half a week late, this is the official notice that 5 Things isn't happening this week.  There isn't a whole lot going on around the farm anyway.  The weather has been both good and bad (50s to 20s, sun to rain).  Critters are doing well though the chickens still aren't laying very well.  I'm hoping to improve that this week.  And things are things.  So... until Monday when hopefully I'll have 5 Things to write about from BOTH weeks... have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, December 5, 2011

5 Things... is it December already?

1) Are you sure?  I know what the calendar says, but really?  Has anyone told Mother Nature yet because I think she may think it's April.  Saturday was GORGEOUS - 50 degrees and sunny.  Since then we've had nothing but rain.  Enough to put us under a flood watch til later today.  Rain, rain and more rain.  And did I mention the ground was already saturated from last week's couple days of rain?  Anyone want to buy me an ark for Yule?

2) The only project this weekend at the farm was enjoying the weather and unpacking the new tv.  Yes, folks, the Shindig now has a tv as the "monster" will be moved (at some point) out to the bar.  The new tv is lighter (although bigger) and fits better in the house. 

3) The weather on Saturday was enjoyed by doing some light clean up but mostly by shooting at targets in the Back 10.  ALWAYS a good time!

4) While not hooked up, the farm also officially has a hot tub!  It's currently residing in the attached garage to keep it cat and chicken free until such time as it gets hooked up and put in it's proper place, but at least it's there and one can stand and look at it, and dream of being in warm bubbles on cold days.

5) Made some random "let's throw this in" chili this past week and it was fabulous (for experimental chili and my lack of understanding spicing).  Made it from ground venison that's been in the freezer.  I'm SO looking forward to a winter of more yummy chili!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

5 Things post-Thanksgiving

1) Thanks to a friend, I was able to actually eat one of my own turkeys on Thanksgiving.  According to 2 different people who cooked/ate 2 different turkeys, they were a big hit and were both described as "the breast meat just fell off the bone!"  That people thoroughly enjoyed the birds makes me happy!  Plans are to have turkeys next year.  I already have a couple orders.

2) Had a wonderful holiday weekend overall.  Before chowing down on turkey on Thursday, a friend and I participated in the Miamisburg Turkey Trot 5 mile run/walk.  We did it last year and I'm happy to say improved our time in the race this year by over 5 minutes!  I definitely think this is going to become a tradition for us.

3) Although the weather was gorgeous until Sunday, not much got accomplished around the farm.  Cleaned out the garage to make room for storing the hot tub until I can get everything in place to put it in its new home.  Cleaned out part of the chicken room as well, but really that was about it.  Went riding on Spot, walked around downtown for a bit... took it easy and loved it.

4) Of course the weather has been less than stellar since the weekend and is expected to get worse as we're forecasted for our first snow of the season tonight.  Blech!  So not ready for snow!!

5) And last but not least, an update on the land acquisition.  Refinanced the farm last week and am extremely happy with that process.  Still waiting to hear from the seller as to whether or not he's ok with still splitting off some land for me (up to 7 acres) or if he just wants to nix the whole thing.  Didnt' expect to hear anything last week due to the holiday and all, so I'm just in wait mode at this point.  The appraisal on the farm is good for a year... so I can add land up to that point without having to get another appraisal on the farm itself, just the land.  However, I'd really rather we get things finished well before then... perhaps in time to plant pasture/hay on the new acreage in the spring.

Well... that's it for this week.  Things are definitely slowing down and soon I expect to be talking more and more about plans for next year.  Right now they definitely include more turkeys (hopefully Bourbon Reds as well as some Broad Breasted Whites).  Next year may also see a couple new beef steers on the property along with (at long last) horses!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

5 Things pre-Thanksgiving

1) It's almost eerie how quiet it was walking to the car this morning.  The garage is right next to where the turkeys were and no one was there to squeek at me this morning.  Saturday we finished processing all the turkeys.  It went well, even if the garbage can idea was a bust (next year - turkey frier may get a try).  10 processed turkeys ranged from 11 pounds to 16 pounds, without the "extras".  Not bad.  A bit small for a Broad Breasted White turkey but given that I raised them as naturally as I count instead of the way the commercial turkeys are typically raised, I'm pretty happy with them.  Even more seeing the look on people's faces when they pick their turkey up.  I really hope they cook well!  I may even get a chance to try one of them.

2) Starting to look towards next year but at the same time am enjoying the downtime.  Stewie will be gone sometime next month and then I'll just have the chickens.  I foresee winter vacations in my future since there's not much to take care of (although leaving for some warm destination and leaving someone to deal with critters in the cold may not be fair either).

3) Still waiting to get the word on how much land I'm potentially picking up.  Kind of has me on pins and needles... but at the same time, I think I have plenty of contingency plans in place that there's nothing to do but wait and no sense in worrying.

4) Have a busy week ahead.  FPU Class tomorrow night, refi closing on the farm Wednesday afternoon, Turkey Trot Thursday morning, and a hunt with MVH on Friday.  Looking forward to next weekend when I can sleep in and relax a little.  But honestly, being busy with fun things that I enjoy and/or am looking forward to isn't a bad schedule to keep.  The only thing this week that I'm skipping is tonight's Nourishing Connections meeting.  They're showing the film "Farmaggedon".  I've already seen it and am having a hard time justifying the expense (in time and gas) to go to the meeting tonight, especially considering how busy the rest of the week is looking.

5) And for Thing #5... random recent pictures...

Bought these for me.  Sometimes splurging (within financial reason of course) is a GOOD thing.

Reilly and Phoebe taking it easy on the couch.  Not sure which one is worse... the cat on the pile of blankets or the dog with the pillow under his head.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Interesting Turkey Review

A cyber friend of mine in Virginia raised heritage breed turkeys this year - Midget Whites and Bourbon Reds.  It was an interview with her and the accompanying video that gave me the idea for the turkey building that I built this year.  She just posted this article from HamptonRoads.com titled "Let's put turkeys to the test".  It reviews a taste test they did between your store variety Butterball turkey, a fresh farmers market turkey (breed?), and 2 of the birds from my friend (one of each breed).  The review was very interesting to read and makes me think on the future.

My Broadbrested Whites this year - so far hens are averaging 12 pounds dressed weight.
The original plan really was to raise heritage breeds this year, but with the "busy" of the spring, we just didn't get the order planned in time and thus with only 4 months to go, the commercial Broad Breasted White was it.  Having raised it differently than your normal Butterball though, I'm quite anxious to hear back from customers this year what they thought of the turkey quality.  (Hint to those customers -- PLEASE give me a review!) 

Midget Whites - heritage breed, average 13 pounds for toms, 8 pounds for hens
It also makes me start thinking on what to do next year -- stick with the BB Whites, do heritage only or maybe do a mix to give customers the option.  If you have an opinion, please let me know. 

Flock of Bourbon Red turkeys - heritage breed, up to 23 pounds for toms, 14 pounds for hens

I can tell you that a heritage type bird will take longer to mature (6 months as opposed to 4) so the price will be slightly higher, but beyond that, I would like to hear from you on what you would want. Of course no matter what, we're talking pastured turkey -- no antibiotics, plenty of room to run and eat grass and bugs and lay in the sunshine. No obligation to order at this point. Sometime in the spring I'll start taking orders and I'll probably do more than the dozen that I had this year (although I did start with 15).

Which one would you like to see on your table?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

5 Things - Indian Summer

Cannot believe it's mid November already.  This weekend was over 60 degrees and it hit 70 this past week!  All I can say is... keep that gorgeous weather coming!! :)

1) Turkey massacre part 1 went well.  I didn't realize or think that the turkeys really should be fasted before butchering and fed them the night before.  So in the end we only ended up doing 3 of them that were getting picked up over the weekend (plus the 2 live birds that left with another customer).  So we have 7 we'll be processing this weekend.  If anyone is interested in helping, just let me know.

From this....

To this...

2) The appraisal came back on the farm and it was an ok appraisal for refinancing... but really not that great for the land purchase.  Conversations and decisions with the seller are going to need to take place.  It's not over yet, but it's not going to be easy either.

3) Stewie cracks me up when he plays with his bucket.  I finally got around to creating a YouTube channel as well as finally getting a video of him playing.  So this is the first of possibly many Serenity Valley Farm videos to come.  Titled "Even Cows Need Toys"

4) Received a call the other day that made me smile.  Seems the potential boarder from the spring passed my name and number along to a friend who is looking for possible boarding for her 9 year old quarter horse who recently underwent a neurectomy (a severing of the digital nerve in cases of Navicular Syndrome).  Not sure it will work out, but it was really nice to be remembered and have the number passed on in a positive manner.

5) I know this is a few days late, but Happy Veteran's Day to all who have or are serving.  One of the ideas for the farm in the future is to put up a flag pole.

Monday, November 7, 2011

5 Things - Officially November

Since last monday was still October, this is the first 5 Things for November.  With it being in the 60s again today, it's hard to believe it really is November.

1) Took Spot to the Miami Valley Hunt 2011 Blessing of the Hounds yesterday just outside Yellow Springs.  The weather, while not great for actual hunting, was fantastic for riding.  Spot took everything very well.  Got strong a few times (will probably need a brake adjustment this week for his lesson students) and got antsy at standing around once or twice, but overall, I couldn't be happier with him.  He was wonderful and I think he had a good time.  I know I did.

Spot & I standing around waiting for the actual Blessing to happen.
Next to us is a lovely lady named Nancy on her 20yo appy mare.

Hunting through an open field.  We're on the left in the group closest to the camera.  Not sure why our field master (on the bay tot he far right) or the huntman (on the gray 2nd from right) had us spread out, but we did.

2) No word on the appraisal yet, but it wasn’t expected either.  Farm Credit said it would take 3-4 (business) days to get that information back.  So we should be hearing about it later this week.  All digits crossed, please!

3) Just saw a FANTASTIC video of Suzie and Frankie at the Chattahoochee Hills CCI** a couple weeks ago.  For those who don't know, I used to own Frankie and was the one who sold her to Suzie.  That was almost 6 years ago (next month).  I bought Frankie from the Ohio Thoroughbred Breeders & Owners Mixed Fall Sale in October 2004 at Riverdowns in Cincy.  She was a 4yo mare who no one else bid on.  Only owned her 14 months, but she's a fantastic horse.  Suzie loves her and they've made amazing progress and I love getting the updates from Suzie (plus with her being in Kentucky, it's easy to run into them on occasion).  Wanna watch the video?  It includes both vet jogs, cross country and show jumping.  Suzie & Frankie

4) Turkeys are about ready to process.  If you're on the list to recieve on, please let me know which is more convenient for you to pick up your bird -- this weekend or next.  I have help for processing both weekends, so I'm opening up the option.  I don't have freezer space to store 12 birds long term so please let me know when you can pick them up.
5) And last but not least, a Thing that looks forward.  Tomorrow is voting day.  We all have our preferences and opinions on how things should go.  I know I do.  I'm not going to dwell on them here, but what I do want to say is GO VOTE!  It's your right as a citizen.  Read the issues, look at the positions of the candidates and make a valid, informed choice tomorrow.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A hunting we will go...

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.  The weather looks to be GORGEOUS around here and I'm taking Spot hunting with the Miami Valley Hunt Club on Sunday.  It's their annual opening of the formal season and the Blessing of the Hounds.  Should be a ton of fun even if the weather isn't exactly ideal for hunting.  Definitely look for a recap in Monday's 5 Things.

In other news, Happy 11th Birthday Willow!!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Progress Update

I don't know what step this is in the land purchase process... but one more step down:  The Appraisal.  Had an appraiser out yesterday -- great guy.  Talked about the property itself as well as what I'm hoping to do in terms of a land purchase.  Seems we have to wait 3-4 days before Farm Credit gets that information back and who knows how long til they decide on "a number".  So while we've managed to get 1 step behind us... we're back on the Waiting Game Train for now.

Just for fun, I googled "Waiting".  Not sure which is funnier but wanted to share...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

5 Things post Halloween!!

Hope everyone had a wonderful Halloween and weekend.

1) I am still in shock that it's November already.  Just can't believe it.  The weather isn't hateful, although the last few mornings have seen a bunch of frost on the ground early.  Today's high is an average 58 with plenty of sunshine.  I'm ok with that.  Prefer warmer but for winter that wouldn't be a bad place to stay.  No freezing water buckets.  Easy on the fuel oil cost for heating.  *sigh* I probably should just stop before I get depressed that winter is coming sooner rather than later, right?

2) The weekend was a flury of activity at the farm.  A.J. and Mark were up from First Class Home Solutions LLC again this weekend working on a few bigger projects.  In the last 2 weeks, with their help, we've gotten the roof over the mudroom/bathroom fixed, gutters cleaned, trees trimmed, roof in the back of the barn fixed, barn foundation shored up really well, gutters attached to the barn (to help with the flooding experienced last spring), garage people door threashold replaced and a plan going forward for getting water to the barn.  We even took a trip down the road to Nikol's new place and looked around so they could do some work for her (egress windows, dutch doors, panelling and fencing mostly).  I'm extremely pleased with the amount of work accomplished, not to mention the cost and quality of said work.  If anyone is looking for contractor/handy-man type work to be done, please contact A.J. at dryflyadams@aol.com or 513-535-7434.

3) Had fun at the Halloween party on Saturday.  Small attendance but still fun.  It was cold.  We decided not to put up the canvas on the bar.  Looked at the forecasted temperatures and decided it wasn't worth the effort.  We stayed in the bar for quite a while, eventually spending the last hour in the living room warming up.  I guess that probably does it for parties in the bar for the year.  Maybe a daytime gathering on a warm day wouldn't be out of the question so we'll see, but defnitely planning to have a few next summer.  Would love to do a pot luck dinner type of thing in the bar one day.  Why not -- we have the room!

4) Did some minimal decorating for the party.  Saw the idea for the carved pumpkins online and with having the party in The Shindig, it was more than appropriate to steal the idea.  So after feeding the chickens a bit early on Saturday, I put the pumpkins, along with 2 of the giant mums, 3 hay bales and a few beer and liquor bottles, out in front of the barn: 

They looked wonderful with the candle glow after the sun went down.  However, with the chickens getting out of the pasture, by the end of Sunday, they looked less cute (although a bit more horrifying if you think about it):

Yep, the chickens pecked and ate the pumpkins.  The one on the right had a giant hole in the back, while the front one was missing it's face!  Oh well, it was fun and they enjoyed it.  Ended up throwing one of them in the pasture for the chickens (and Stewie, but he didn't eat it and just kept bellowing for pears) and the other 2 ended up in the turkey pen.  May have to hit the "clearance" sales for the pumpkins for the birds now.

5) The appraisal for the land deal is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.  Crossed digits, prayers, good thoughts, whatever... I'll take them!  Been doing monster cleaning all weekend in prep.  Special thanks to Thom for helping to clean the barn/bar for the party (while I was cleaning the house) and to Sparky for coming over and helping clean on Sunday.  I'm not "done", but the house overall looks nice. 

Bonus Thing:  Since I'm officially late this week (again), thought I'd add this bonus Thing -- The turkeys are only going to be around for another 2-3 weeks, but their pen was looking pretty beaten down.  Last night I added 25' of fencing and increased their pen to include the rest of the "garden" and a bunch of taller grass and clover.  Hopefully they'll enjoy it.

Bonus Pictures: 

1) Reilly on Sunday afternoon... obviously helping me clean the living room:

2) Me in my Halloween costume -- I'm a "Train Wreck"

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

5 Things on an October New Moon

I know, I'm late again this week.  But at least it's something, right? :)

1) Have started jumping through hoops for the land purchase.  Looks like I won't make December 1st no matter what I do as the parcel split needs to go before the zoning committee for the township and the next meeting we can make is December 1st.  Waiting for the ok to proceed with the plan from the seller, then the next steps are the appraisal on the farm and the survey for the split.

2) Had 1 showing on the Cottage house yesterday and have another scheduled for today.  If anyone is looking for a nice home for cheap ($500 to assume the loan!!) and the possibility of no payments til August, send them my way!

3) Need to find a way to corral the chickens better.  Mostly because I want to decorate with pumpkins but I know the chickens will peck at them.  Hmmmm...

4) Cleaned the mudroom this past weekend, including scrubbing the floor.  Moved the patio bench and chair into the mudroom for the winter.  Not looking forward to winter weather mind you... not saying that at all.  But I am looking forward to being able to sip a cup of tea in the mudroom on one of those "it's so sunny that the mudroom is WARM even with snow on the ground" days.

Of course when the door is left open, the barn cats have their own ideas...

5) Trying to figure out the plans for this weekend.  Having more work done (at least in the barn), may be judging Saturday, would like to go to a corn maze maybe, have the party on Saturday night, still need to clean for the impending appraisal, want to ride (need to if I'm hitting the Blessing of the Hounds next weekend), need to work on a costume, then make a dish to take to the office carry-in on Monday.  I need a longer weekend. :)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

5 Thing for mid-October

1. No news yet on the loan paperwork, although it's still early in the week.  I really don't expect anything til Wednesday or so.  Keep those "yes you can buy more land" digits crossed!

2. I really need to get Stewie a ball to play with.  Walked the fenceline last night to fix the electric in a couple places (no, just putting on new wire holders... I'm not an electric goddess) and he followed Reilly and I the whole time.  When we got back to the beginning, I walked off where I'd like to put an arena - trying to decide if 100x150 is ok or if I "need" to go to 100x200 and how it would look in the field, when Stewie decided he was bored or something.  He started PLAYING with a bucket... pushing it around iwth his head a bit then spinning and bucking like he was at the National Rodeo Finals... then back to the bucket.  I feel bad that he only has chicken friends.  He even tried to play with Reilly, but unlike when he first arrived at the farm, the boy has grown... Reilly hides behind me when Stewie gets playful.  If we do beef again, there will need to be at least 2.

(note, it's now THURSDAY!!  so much for finishing this "in a few minutes")

3. I participated again this year in the Ghosts & Goblins 5K race downtown (proceeds to benefit Children's Medical Center).  Fun race.  That was Tuesday.  Now it's Thursday and I swear I'm more sore than I was yesterday!  Something tells me I need to do more fitness work before I get horses at the farm... or hauling and tossing hay is going to be a daily adventure in pain.

4.  Same as #1.  Still no news yet on the loan application.

5.  Raining again today.  It's good for the land, but it shows some things that just make you want to laugh.  I wish I had a picture.  I arrived home late last night after meeting some old friends for dinner.  It was dark.  It was raining.  Yet there were 8 of the 12 Turkeys huddled on top of the rabbit hutch napping in the dark rain.  their house isn't perfect, but there is a roost pole in there and there are parts of it that ARE dry.  Nope... the turkeys seem to prefer being out in the rain. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Step 1 taken ... now the waiting begins

Turned in all the financial paperwork this morning to try and get the loan accomplished that will enable the farm to expand up to 20 additional acres.  Thinking positive and trying not to be sick to my stomach with stress as it's now out of my hands.  We should hear back from the bank by the end of next week.

Digits all crossed!!

Monday, October 10, 2011

5 Things (in pictures) on Columbus Day

Had to work today... ah the joys of working in retail.  Managed to get a few things accomplished this past weekend.  But decided rather than just recount those in words, I'd do most of today's entry in pictures.

1) Fall may be here but there are still some pretty things around:

Flower growing next to the back patio

Wooly worm making its way across the pasture
2) Still harvesting pears:

Pear from one of the trees.

3) The cow is happy about the pears... comes running when I'm on that side of the fence:

Silly cow coming to beg for pears.
4) Chickens are still dumb.  No this is not a staged picture.  Yes some dumb chicken really did leave the egg here.
Egg found on the workbench, "nested" among scrap wood.
5) Planted a new tree.  Hope to make the old burn pile area a nice garden/sitting area.  Started with the Royal Frost Birch tree thanks to Vogel's Nursery (and their 30% off fall sale!)
New tree near the barn.

Monday, October 3, 2011

5 Things in October

1- It's October already?  Wow!  Seems like just yesterday it was spring.  I love October for the most part, and just like the rest of Fall, I'd love it more if winter didn't follow so closely behind it. 

2- In the grand tradition of harvesting for winter that's happened for the entire of human existence, I did some canning this weekend.  Picked a couple grocery bags of pears from the trees in front of the pasture and made pear sauce from them.  Canned it yesterday into 14 pint jars.  All the jars sealed and look good.  Talked to the neighbor as well and she said I could "have at" their pear tree.  So I see more pear sauce in my future.  And maybe some pear butter too!

Pear sauce cooling and sealing.

3- Moved the fencing for the turkeys over the weekend.  Incorporated the rabbit area and fencing and figure it doubled the amount of space the turkeys have.  They LOVED it! 

4- Slight farm detour -- Saw 2 movies over the weekend on VUDU -- X-Men: First Class and Transformers: Dark of the Moon.  I'm really glad I saw X-Men first... while not a fantastic movie, it gave me something to fall back on that not all sequels are complete garbage.  If I'd seen Transformers first... I'm not sure I would have even bothered with X-Men.  Transformers was THAT bad.  I'm not usually one to complain this loudly about a movie but really... when Megan Fox looks like a genius for getting (herself?) fired and not being part of the project, you know it's bad.  Bad editing, bad story, bad script, bad acting... not to mention putting us through all that bad for 2.5 hours!  Bad movies should be limited to 90 minutes tops.  That way you don't waste the WHOLE evening watching something that bad.  I wasn't even engaged enough to enjoy the special effects.  It was just... bad.

5- Back to the farm -- Have a busy week ahead.  Putting together all the paperwork and bank statements for the loan application to get more land.  Plus Nikol came over yesterday and we talked plants and I would love to get a couple in the ground (while Vogel's is doing their sale).  Need to finish cleaning up my tack so I can get it all moved into the new tack room and clean out the mudroom.  Probably making more pear sauce -- since what I've done has turned out so well, I can't see waiting and letting pears rot on the trees (although Stewie the cow LOVES pears and is going to be quite miffed when they're all gone).  May even try making a few jars of pear butter.  And contractors come this weekend to work on the mudroom/bathroom roof issue.

Bonus:  took a ride on Spot yesterday.  Not sure if it was because he was in his stall, but he was quite full of himself.  His canter transitions are getting MUCH nicer though.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Other 4 Things

To continue 5 Things for this week...

#2 - The work on the new tack room continues.  As of last night, the only parts left to "complete" are the door and window.  Of course there is more to do -- move the light switch, put down floor mats, insulate -- but those things come in time.  I've actually started moving some of my large collection of "stuff" into the room and I'm really excited to see it all come together.

Reilly checking out my unpacking.  Window and door will be on the right of this shot.
Notice the new cabinets -- I LOVE the ReStore!

Obviously more work to do here, but you can see the system of holders for blankets and saddle pads.
The plan is to have saddle racks on the far wall (as it's the most sturdy wall in the room).  That's next.

#3 - Chickens really are dumb.  Caught this bird-brain finding a new nesting spot -- in the cabinets above the workbench.  Also found she's been going there for a while as she left behind 6 eggs.
Dumb chicken

#4 - Reilly got groomed!!  He was starting to look (and smell) like a good ole farm dog so off to the groomers he went.  Took him to Kela's here in New Lebanon and they loved him, of course.  He looks adorable.  A little funny perhaps with his feet trimmed all up for a wet fall (had them take the excess fur around his feet off so he wouldn't track quite as much mud into the house), but he looks... and even more SMELLS... so much better!  They even gave him a blue bow.

In the car on the ride home.  Ain't he so cute!!
#5 - Finally put a For Sale sign up in front of the Cottage house.  I've gotten quite a few phone calls from it.  A lot of people I think are hampered by wanting to buy now but can't move in due to the renters being in place.  Oh well.  Gives me hope for the future though.  Just wish to have it "moved on" sooner rather than later.  If anyone reads this and knows someone who's looking to buy a house, please pass this on.  Renters are in place til August 1st, but I'm offering to pay the sellers the difference between rent and monthly payment through then so no mortgage payment til you actually get in the house... and you still get the deduction on your taxes!

The small print in the middle says "No Closing Costs. No Down Payment. Save over $40,000"

Monday, September 26, 2011

5 Things ... condensed

As I sat down to write this week's 5 Things, I started writing the first item and realized that this was too important to even put down as #1 in the 5 Things list.  It needed an entry all to itself.  And since the writing of 5 Things is intended to help me keep up with writing about what's going on at the farm, there was no reason at all really that I couldn't take this week's 5 Things and write instead about 1 very important thing.  I'll write about the other items later in the week, but really... this deserves to be highlighted on its own.

Yesterday, thanks to the Little Art Theater in Yellow Springs and the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, I got to see a screening of the movie Farmaggedon.  I would highly recommend anyone who is at all interested in freedom of choice when it comes to food to see the movie - either as a screening (a list of which is on their website), in the theaters when it finally gets distributed and released or on DVD when it's available for sales.  The documentary mostly focuses on the specific issues/incidents surrounding the sale of raw milk throughout the country.  Each state has it's own standards and rules -- you can buy it in the grocery stores in California... have to go directly to a farm in NY... and can't buy it at ALL in Maryland.  With different rules come different enforcement but there have been a number of completely ludicrious incidents that make you question the entire legislative process... not to mention the bureaucrats.  From confiscating and destroying sheep really without solid proof of a disease that is pretty much imaginary in sheep (and would later be proven to be non-existent in those sheep destroyed), to confiscating a family's personal food stores after an armed raid and holding the family (including small children) at gunpoint for hours, to dumping paid-for milk simply because it crossed state lines. 

There were many audible outrages in the audience.  Why is raw milk the 2nd most regulated agricultural crop in the US -- behind only Marijuana?  Why is it legal for someone to smoke a pack a day yet illegal for them to buy raw milk?  The former product is proven to have no benefits and a long list of detriments, while the later carries a small chance of a known lethal bacteria which is, lately, more prominent on spinach. Why would government agencies act this way -- entering a family home and holding children at gunpoint?  Taking equipment, food and animals away for destruction?  Where are the raids on the big industrial farms?  One point that was brought up in the film was that an organic farmer had to fill out MOUNDS of government paperwork to prove what is NOT in their products.  Why don't industrial producers have to fill out MOUNDS of government paperwork to say what is IN theirs??  The system does seem slanted and the one-size-fits-all approach not only doesn't fit small farmers, but creates an unnecessary burden... and that's without the overreaching officials and early morning raids at gunpoint.

Probably the most audible disgust from the crowd came in the case of the sheep.  Several years after the sheep were destroyed, a lead official for the FDA was finally brought into court under a deposition and stated, for the record (paraphrased here), that US Citizens truly have 1) no absolute right to choose what they eat or what they feed their children and 2) no absolute right to their own health (not health care... basic health).  She also admitted that no disease was ever found in the flock that was destroyed (or in the equipment taken or the hay that was confiscated and dumped).

I walked out of the almost sold out theater feeling 2 things -- a heavy dispair at the state of freedom in this country (with a good dose of "why bother" thrown in).... and an almost violent urge to tell the entire government to Shove Off!  The local food movement in growing and our representatives need to know where we stand.  I want the freedom to choose to get to know my farmer and eat/drink their product.  I want the freedom to go to the corner mini-mart and gorge myself on twinkies. 

When we went to a community meeting last fall regarding the new Ohio Livestock Care and Standards Board, I met a hog farmer from Darke County.  I am extremely glad to have gotten to talk to him.  He is very proud of the work he is doing and his desire is to feed the world.  I hope he succeeds.  My desire is to feed my family and my neighbors.  There is NO reason both systems of farming cannot exist in the same country EXCEPT that someone has decided they can't.  Why not?  Conspiracy theories will say follow the money and they very well may be right.  In the meantime, if we can't choose what we put into our bodies... be that pastured turkey, grassfed beef, raw milk, twinkies, McDonalds or coke... how free are we really?  and if we aren't free to choose the basic of all things (our food), WHY NOT!!??

HR Bill 1830 was introduced to Congress in May and would remove the interstate commerce ban on sales of raw milk and raw milk products.  It is currently in committee review.  Here's hoping freedom can win one.

In the meantime, seriously... if you get a chance to see "Farmaggedon" I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

5 Things on a Tuesday

I took a vacation day yesterday from work.  Didn't accomplish quite as much as I would have liked, but after the busy weekend, the day was enjoyable.  So that's why "5 Things" is late this week.

1) The horse show on Saturday was a lot of fun.  It was an incredibly LONG day -- left the farm at 7:30am... returned at 8:30pm.  Spent the morning watching, reading on my new Kindle (I won a raffle at work on Friday), and catching up with friends.  I love the Stillwater Pony Club show.  It's always fun.  It was a decent sized show and with the larger arena, the classes took a while to finish.  Spot and I finally got to show about 4:30.  He was SO much more confident than at the Greenstone show a couple weeks ago.  The fences didn't phase him.  We had our issues with the canter transitions, but that's a work in progress for Spot.  Even between the first and second class, his confidence grew.  He's such a neat horse.  We didn't place in any of our classes, but I'm so proud of him!  I'm hoping Jen got a couple good pictures of us.  I also really appreciated the comments and compliments I got from friends. 

2) Very proud of myself for all the work that was accomplished on Sunday.  Trimmed bushes, weeded flower beds (and cleaned up the mess from both), finished painting the turkey coop, painted the support posts for the farm sign, cleaned the chicken nest boxes and refilled with bedding, cleaned the turkey coop and replaced the fly strip, picked up the trash that Stewie kept scattering in the pasture, and dismantled the old burn pile.  Oye!  Didn't do diddly Saturday evening that's for sure!

3) Had a meeting with Farm Credit on Thursday and things are looking very good for the land purchase.  Need to get all my financial documentation in order and turn in the paperwork.  Of course the hoops don't stop there -- after I get my approval back, we have to go to the Township to get the big parcel officially split.  THEN I can go back to the bank and finish the loan.

4) Attended the Nourishing Connections meeting last night.  It's a chapter of the Weston A Price Foundation.  The speaker was from the Farm To Consumer Legal Defense Fund (and Foundation).  This is a wonderful organization that helps farmers, even or especially in fights with the government.  The Foundation is an educational charitable branch of the organization and it turns out they have some experienced folks willing to help with the education of new farmers when they have questions.  I WILL have questions with the new land.  Having been conventionally farmed for many years (who knows how many), I'm worried about the soil quality.  As was quoted last night (and paraphrased here), the quality of the ground leads to the quality (and quantity) of the nutrient dense vegetation -- whether that's in the form of vegetables or forage crops for feed animals.

5) Along the same lines as #4, I think I'm going to see a showing of the movie "Farmaggedon" this Sunday.  4pm at the Little Art Theater in Yellow Springs.  $4 of every $10 ticket goes to support the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund.  This is not fringe, hippy, radical stuff.  It's incredible, disturbing and true and I would urge anyone interested in good, nutritious food... AND the right to CHOOSE what food you are able to buy... to go see the movie!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Turkey Coop Details

I’ve tried to take pictures to show how the turkey coop was built. My design was loosely based on an Internet friend’s coop that she’s using on her farm in Virginia. The size is similar (8x12), but the roof… well… I went easy and put in the tarp over PVC roof where her’s has a traditional wood roof. Here is the process… pretty much from start to finish.  Also, where I can remember I've noted materials and costs.

The floor:
The coop is “moveable”. I built it on 4x4 skids. If needed, I could attached a couple heavy duty eyebolts to them and pull them with a tractor or truck to a new location. It’s the same principle used for “portable” cross country fences that I’ve built. Don’t forget to shave the ends off so when you drag you’re not dragging the blunt 90 degree end of a 4x4 through the rough terrain… but rather the sloped end thus doing less damage to the ground (although you’ll still have skid marks through the grass).

The parts of the 4x4s that I used a chainsaw to cut off to "slope" the ends should I need to move the coop after it's built.

Next I added three ½ inch treated sheets of plywood to the skids for the actual floor.
The treated plywood floor laying out across the 4x4 skids.  I HIGHLY recommend to build it from the ground up in the spot where you want the coop to be located.  You CAN move it, but why when you can start from there.

Even though they’re treated, I painted them with exterior latex paint.  Being the floor of a coop for 13 turkeys, they’re going to have to withstand quite a bit of icky use.  Adding the paint was just an added bit of insurance.  Hopefully they’ll last a few years before needing to be replaced.

The plywood floor, now painted with exterior latex to help preserve it even more (and thus need replacing less often) ready to be screwed down into the 4x4 skids.
The Walls:
I constructed the walls in the barn out of 2x4 studs and then screwed them into place on the put together floor. 4 – 2x4x12s for the top and bottom rails on the sides. 2 – 2x4x8s for the top and bottom on the back. I made the walls 4’ tall on the sides so it was easy to use wall studs – just cut a 2x4x8 in half. It would also be useful as I would be able to buy a 4x8 sheet of plywood for the walls and not have to do any cutting. I also used several 2x4x8s to construct the frame around the door (a $17 screen door from Lowe’s) and a matching support on the back of the coop. Three 2x4x12s were then used as roof supports, with the middle one being put on an additional 2x4 so it was higher (thus rain wouldn’t collect between the 3 boards on the roof). The original plan was to only use one roof board, but the only PVC length I could get was 10’ and unless I wanted to cut a single 6’ length out of the 10’ pipes vs being able to have two 5’ lengths additional boards were needed and it was slightly less expensive.

The coop with walls and door attached.

I don’t remember the exact number of 2x4x8s that were used... about 10 I think. You can get those for less than $2 if you’re willing to dig through ones that aren’t quite straight.

The actual walls are cheap 4x8 OSB. They aren’t taking as much use as the floor and painted, they should withstand the weather just fine. The project needed 5 and I think they ran about $8 each.
The curved ¾” PVC was added and tacked down to the walls and the roof supports.  I used 4 of them but they’re less than $2 each.  In addition they are initially supported with brackets.  They’re inexpensive, but I can’t remember if they were even $1 each.  After being put into place with the brackets, they were then screwed in place.

One of the PVC roof pieces in its brace.  PVC pieces would also be screwed down into the wall for added support.  Additional roof beams would also be added -- another one on the far side for the PVC pieces to attach to and a center beam elevated slightly on another section of 2x4 so the overall roof sloped instead of having a flat top (which would inevidibly gather rain).
The whole thing… inside and out… was then painted with exterior latex paint.  Lesson – cheap OSB drinks paint like a drunk at an open bar!  All total, I have 3 gallons of paint in this project.  I ended up using cheap exterior paint from Tractor Supply at $13 per gallon towards the end (after using up the good paint that I had on hand for the floor).
The coop painted, with wire ends, ready for the roof to be attached.  Yes I know the door frame isn't entirely painted.  I ran out of paint and would get to this later.

Before putting the roof on, I finished the ends by attaching chicken wire. I used a 3’ wide roll purchased at Lowe’s. I think it was about $15. On the front, the wire was stacked horizontally. Across the back, since it’s an 8’ wide uninterrupted section, it’s stacked vertically. I used a staple gun to attach the wire to the wood – along the bottom to the wall as well as up the sides of the door and to the back matching support. To attach the wire to the curved roof PVC pieces, I simply wrapped the wire around the PVC and secured with Zip Ties. I also used the zip ties to attach the wire to itself where the pieces overlapped one another.

The Roof:
The roof is simple – a 12x16 medium duty tarp I purchased at TSC for $35. After pulling it into place, it is secured with nylon cord strung through the eyelets in the tarp and small eyebolts (fairly tiny ones) that I screwed into the bottom of the walls. Pull tight and the tarp has stayed in place already through a couple nasty storms.

The "finished" coop (sans additional paint).  Ready for turkeys!


I added shavings to the floor (although in the future I may try the horse stall pine pellets).
The coop interior after adding shavings to the floor.  I painted the inside too... again for the purpose of extending the life of the materials used.  You can see the black dots in the wire on the far wall -- those are the zip ties holding the 2 overlapping pieces of chicken wire that cover the ends to each other.

I also added their feed container (hung by cords from the roof), their water container (bungie tied to an upside down wire freezer rack to keep it up off the floor) and a small roost that I constructed of a leftover 2x4 and a couple scrap landscape timber pieces.

The interior with all the accoutrements added!

Next step was adding the birds!!

8 week old turkeys enjoying their first meal in the new coop.

They seemed to like it!

Turkeys in the coop with the door shut.

I did have to end up putting a piece of plywood over the bottom of the screen door as they pushed their way out and broke the screen. I also use just a bungie cord and a piece of string to latch the door open most days now.

I kept them in there for a few days before letting them out in the yard.  Not only did that allow them to get accustomed to being out (the sun can get in the E/W facing ends of the coop), but it gave me a few days to actually finish their yard!

The Yard:
Last step was to construct their yard so they could get out on the grass. I used five 5’6” T-posts (one at each corner and an additional one for the “door”). I also originally used a few leftover 4’ step in posts as the sides were roughly 36’-39’ in length. In hindsight, these posts just weren’t tall enough and the 4’ chicken wire (a roll of 150’ was used in one continuous piece) drooped.

Turkeys in their yard.  They're actually investigating the lawn mower that I'm running just outside their fenceline.  They've been in this space for about a month at the time of this picture.

Eventually I used 2x2x4 lumber tied to 4’ U-posts that I had leftover.  Notice the far fenceline in the above picture – the 4’ lumber is in place here, but not the u-post to hold it up.  The fence is tied to each of the posts 2 to 3 times with zip ties.  The door was created using the end of the chicken wire roll stapled to a 4’ leftover piece of plywood… and then latched shut with bungie cords!

Close up of my fancy door.  The end of the 150' roll of chicken wire, stapled to a scrap 4' piece of plywood and bungied together.

In the End:
It wasn’t an extremely cheap venture… I figure any “profit” I make off of this year’s turkeys is tied up in this coop and yard for them to live in.  But it’s worth it.  Just this morning on my way to the car, I saw them running around flapping their wings.  For them to be able to do that vs being in a crowded coop never eating grass or bugs or feeling the sunshine is more than worth it to me.  They don’t have very long lives since they’re being raised for food, but they should be able to be turkeys for what they do have, right?
11 week old turkeys inside their yard with Reilly the newf looking in at them.  Reilly has visited inside the yard a couple times and the turkeys really dont' care much about him.

I wiggled the yard dimensions so i could enclose the small pine tree inside their yard.  This is the turkey's enjyoing what shade they can get under the pine tree on a hot afternoon.

The turkeys mostly wander in and out now at their leisure.  I've secured the door open with a piece of rope and a bungie.  I've also moved their water container outside the coop.  The floor slanted JUST enough that it was dripping and making the since water-logged.  If I lock them in the coop for some reason, I just move the water back inside on a temporary basis, but they seem to enjoy being able to come and go as they please.  I've only had 2 turkeys fly over the fence.  The first time I came home to find 'Lefty' (my resident pirate turkey -- see pic below) outside the fence.  One call to him/her and the silly bird came running right to me.  The other time was yesterday... the lawn mower startled the birds and as they ran across the yard, several flapped their wings and one actually flew/jumped the fence.  Not quite the easy catch as Lefty but certainly not difficult and the escapee was back inside the yard in a matter of a minute.

Lefty, the pirate turkey (because he's always squiting and looks like he's saying "ARGH!") seems to enjoy his new coop and yard.

Monday, September 12, 2011

5 Things for this Monday

See... I told you I could eventually post on an actual Monday.

1) Yesterday I performed in one last showing of "A Piece of My Heart"... sort of.  Mother Nature interfered at the end of Act 1 and we couldn't finish.  Kind of a rough way to end the run, but I'm still glad we did it.  The show is and probably always will be a favorite of mine.  The subject matter simply is too close to home or my heart or something not to be.  If you ever get a chance to see a performance of it, don't pass it up.  I wouldn't. 

2) Building on point 1... I now get my evenings free again.  Time to get my butt in the saddle and ride as well as getting projects worked on at home.  I'm thinking lawn mowing tonight with a side of putting up poultry netting in the barn (too many hens ending up in the barn again).

3) Hopefully meeting with and/or talking to a few financial type folks this week to work further details on purchasing the land soon.  I have another "angle" on how I can work the deal (all on the up and up, it's just another way that I hadn't thought of to try to obtain financing).  Still have some hoops to jump through, most notably with the Township and dividing the one parcel, but I think it's going to all work out in the end.

4) Still have several turkeys up for sale for the holidays.  They're getting big too.  I also think I'm going to move their water jug outside the coop itself.  I think it may be tilted just enough that that part of the coop is staying really wet, making the entrance just icky to walk in, even 10 minutes after I clean it.

5) I'm starting to advertising the Cottage house for sale again.  The current tenants are in a lease through August 2012, but they pay on time and are good tenants.  And with the mortgage loan assumption, a buyer could save about $40,000 between loan interest and closing costs/fees!  Plus I'm willing to help with payments through the end of the current lease with the tenants -- they are good friends so I cut them a deal on their rent... what they pay doesn't QUITE cover the whole monthly payment when you include taxes and insurance.  A person could come in and have the house for $500 and not pay any monthly payment out of pocket for almost a full year!!  At which point they can move in themselves or rent it again.