Sunday, December 28, 2008

Winter wonder

After days and days of windy, chilly, soggy, rainy days, the sun came out this morning and I found a little miracle.

A little yellow butterfly lighting on the glass door of the sunroom enjoying the warmth and sunshine as she dried her wings!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Loading hogs

So, we wound our way back down Bud's amazing 3 mile driveway on Friday morning. It is one of the most beautiful remote farms I've ever visited. Remember the Saturday morning kids show "Land of the Lost"? well it sort of reminded me of that minus the dinosaurs and add some Watusi cattle, llamas, RW hogs and heritage turkeys, peacocks, guinneas and assorted dogs of all sizes.

Anyway, Brian got the trailer hooked up and backed up to the hog barn. Bud let Dancer, the sow out and then Sampson, the boar was let out. They lumbered up to the trailer and stopped.

Have you ever tried to make a 800+ pound hog do something he/she doesn't want to?

Well, you can't.

Sampson backed up to the trailer and sat down on the floor like a chair. Then he just looked around at us like ok, so now watcha gonna do?

Dancer was having nothing to do with the whole deal. After an hour of bribing with treats, coaxing and begging we brought in the heavy duty equipment. Bud's wife produced ropes and a come-along.

We attached the come-along to the trailer door and the rope to a gate and squeezed the hogs up toward the trailer. Much squeeling, growling and snorting followed. . . but not much movement.

Dancer kept getting in the way if Sampson made a move toward the trailer. Sampson decided he'd lay down just short of the trailer and wouldn't budge.

Bud called for a bucket. I'd forgotten about the old trick of putting the hogs head in a bucket and then backing them where you wanted them to go. I knew it worked on smaller hogs. I'd seen my grandpa use it when I was little. I wasn't so sure it would work on a giant sow.

In just a few minutes, Bud had Dancer's head in a bucket and Dancer backed into the trailer. She was so nice and quiet and calm there in her bucket that we tied a rope to the bail and fastened it to the side of the trailer to keep her out of the way. She sounded a little like Darth Vadar breathing into that bucket.

Now it was time to focus on Sampson. Coax, poke, bribe, prod - nothing. He did get up long enough to move out, turn around and lay down again facing the other way. Brian got down off the gate where he was perched and went up to the truck bed. He came back with a strap. The kind you use to secure loads on a truck. He hooked it to the door and to the side of the trailer and nudged it under Sampsons ample rear end. Crank, crank, crank... little by little Sampson's hams raised off the ground.

Sampson ignored this whole feat of engineering. Bud told my neice, Sarah to tap him on the snout with her stick - no movement just some angry grunting and snorting. Brian cranked a couple more times. Now there was just about 2 inches of clearance below Samson's hind end.

Samson just sat there and refused to budge. It had been more than 3 hours since we started "loading" the hogs. There we stood looking at each other and wondering what do next. I started thinking about what my grandpa, a hog farmer from way back, would have done. Hmmm- the bucket trick wouldn't work. His head was too big. Hmmm- then I saw it.
A stick laying on the ground.

Sampson's rump had just enough air space under it. Slowly I slid up behind him so he wouldn't notice me. (Not that he was noticing much of anything with his eyes closed.) Then quick as a snake I reached under that big old rump and poked him!

It was just a little poke not enough to hurt him, but it startled him. He jumped up into the trailer and we slammed the door. At the same time, Dancer riggled free of the bucket, grunted and lay down.

Sampson moved just far enough from the door to lay down in the straw next to her like nothing had happened. They both closed their eyes and didn't budge until we got back to Indiana!

Unloading was much easier. Open the door and out they walked. Snurfled around in the straw of their new house a little, lay down, and went back to sleep. Go figure!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Letters from Missouri

"Dear Mom,
The transmission went out on the truck about 60 miles from our destination. We've been going 30 mph on the interstate for 3 hours. We plan to limp the rig into the national forest. I think if we cover the truck and trailer with leaves and twigs, we'll be pretty well camouflaged from the authorities. I'm sure we can live comfortably until we can earn enough money to fix the truck. Sarah thinks she can start a fire by rubbing some sticks together. I'm thinking we'll be home about spring. Please feed the animals until we get there..."

"Stop it!" Brian laughed. "You'll make me drive off the road!" Sarah, my neice, couldn't stop giggling in the back seat.

Ok. So it's not a real letter home, but the transmission did go out in the truck on our way to get the pigs in Missouri and we really were going 20 mph down the interstatein the middle of the night. We did manage to limp her into a little mom and pop hotel for the night. In the morning, we limped her on down to Bud Nickol's farm and dropped the trailer. Bud helped us find a garage that had a computer to check out the truck... another 20 mph ride. So they hooked her up to the computer ... and told us they new what was wrong... and they couldn't fix it.

Another 20mph ride to the dealership. Along the way we passed an abandoned farm...

"Honey, look there's our new house! We can squat there until we can get the truck fixed!"

"Cut that out!" Brian laughed.

You know if you can't laugh at yourselves who can you laugh at?

At the dealership, they said, we can fix it, but it will take 4-5 days.

Time for plan C. We were supposed to be in Jacksonville TX the next day and I was supposed to be at work on Saturday. Enter the "Enterprise" rent a car. ( They really will pick you up!)
Safely ensconced in a rental car we were off to TX. The next morning we called the gentleman we were to interview and found to our dismay that he had been ill and would not be available....
On to plan D: We consulted our Red Wattle Hog raisers list and called the closest ones. So we didn't get our interview but we did manage to visit a couple of TX Red Wattle hog farmers. We met some real nice folks. That was a good thing. And on the way back up to Missouri, my niece managed to pick some mistletoe to take back to her boyfriend. Brian tossed her up into the tree and she climbed up the rest of the way. She managed to get down with only minor scrapes. Another good thing. Oh and on the way back north we got an unexpected phone call.... the garage had our truck done on Thursday.

WHOOPEE!! Who says god doesn't answer prayers.

So $2100 dollars poorer we pulled out of the dealership. The truck runs GREAT!
Now all we needed to do was pick up the "Great Hogs" and get our butts back to Indiana.
More about hogs loading coming up next. ;)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Of road trips and giant pigs

Well, it looks like we are off to Missouri again! This will be our fourth trip this year. We are going to pick up Sampson and his girlfriend at Bud Nichol's farm. Bud and his wife have decided to scale down their hog herd. This is going to be a whirlwind trip. Down and back on my days off. Brian's still in a cast so he won't be driving. Luckily, our neice Sarah has agreed to go along and share the driving with me.

Sampson is a very large, well proven Red Wattle boar. He shows many of the qualities of the original Red Wattles (Waddles) bred by the Wenglar's of Texas. We are excited about keeping him in the gene pool. He will be one of 2 boars we carry on our farm. The sow we are picking up with him is bred to farrow in late February. This will complete our Red Wattle herd for now.

The hogs will move to a new rotational pasture set up in the spring. This new arrangement will allow for a central "wallow" and mutiple pastures so that the hogs can graze more new pasture than on a standard hog pasture situation.

I'll post pics of the new hogs as soon as we get home.

Stay warm,


Sunday, November 16, 2008

And suddenly winter!!

Yesterday afternoon I went to work in my scrubs with just a thin raincoat over. This morning when I pulled out of the parking garage it was snowing. Not a lot, mind you, but enough to jolt me out of fall and right into winter. I do this every year. I just want fall - one of my favorite times of year to go on and on. I guess the weather had lulled me into perpetual fall thinking. Afterall, we still have lettuce and radishes in the garden. It's not really been cold enough for me to go rumaging in the cedar chest for winter coats. We've barely had a killing frost.
But with the snow I can't ignore winter anymore. Time to get everything sealed up for winter. Time to fill the basement with firewood and get out the gloves, mittens, hats and scarves. Time to settle the hens in the high tunnel greenhouse for the winter. Time to start feeding hay to the sheep, cows, pigs and horses. Time to flush and store the auto-waterers for the animals and put out troughs and heaters. Time to clean off the porch and put the flower pots away. Better clean the gutters too - my job this year. Brian's in a leg cast. Hmmmm I know there's something I forgot..... Oh yeah time to buy a sled. :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

If you're happy and you know it....

If you are happy with our farm products, please, let others know.

Go to:

Search for: Kiss My Grass Farm

Click on the stars next to our farm name.

Click on "Post a Review"

Leave your comments.

As always we appreciate everyone who supports the farm.

Thank you,

Dot & Brian

Small Farm Conference

Brian and I just returned from the National Small Farm Conference in Columbia, MO.

What a great event!! Even though folks told us it wasn't as big as in years past, it was a cornacopia of nifty tools, yummy treats, rare livestock and informative speakers. It was almost overwhelming. I can't imagine what it would be like if it was much bigger. We walked the whole show about a dozen times and I think we still missed some things.

The exhibition hall was full of vendors: books, tools, chicken pluckers, honey icecream, seeds, SARE information, Missouri Fruit Research Station publications, handmade soaps, rabbit meat, wood furnaces, Llama products, wool products, herbal animal products, flax seed, wooden utensils, and sorghum molasses to name a few. Around the arena were booths for stock trailers, fencing, BCS tillers and tools, more books, minitature carriages to be pulled by miniature horses and portable small farm buildings.

Inside the arena was my favorite place. One end had the herd dog demonstrations. The rest of the arena had rare livestock and poultry. We met folks who raised Highland cattle, Red Poll cattle, Dexter cattle, Fjord horses and Caspian horses. There were Katahdin and St Croix sheep. Guinea, Tamworth and Red Wattle hogs. And there were chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, guinea fowl and pigeons of more shapes and sizes than I have room to mention.

This was our first year to attend. We'd volunteered to create and work the Red Wattle Hog Association booth for the conference. It was a wonderful experience. Brian spent most of his time educating about our wonderful Red Wattle Hogs. More than once I heard someone say, " Go talk to the bald guy if you want to know about Red Wattle hogs." lol It was really nice to meet so many of the folks in the RW Association in person. On Saturday, I went to the RW Association meeting while Brian went to a class. He is now the VP and I am the Sec/tres of the RWA.

Some of the new tools we brought home included a really slick hand weeder blade, a brush cutter with a replaceable blade for my son, a sheperd's crook and we got anothe Rogue hoe. We have 2 rogue hoes already. They have become our favorite gardening tool. We had to get another one because Brian and I argue over the one we like the best. You just can't beat them for close precision weeding in our wide beds and they really stay sharp. That's the new hoe in the picture.

There were herd dog demonstrations, farmer forums, seminars and classes. We attended topics like adding honey bees to your farm, alternative feeds, elderberry propagation and marketing, intensive grazing of sheep, Marketing a CSA, but our favorite was Joel Salatin's intensive grazing class. Hearing Joel Salatin talk is like going to a tent revival for farming!

We're looking forward to hearing Joel Salatin speak again in January when he's here in Indiana at the Heart of America Conference in Columbus.

We're also looking into trying to start a Small Farm Conference here in Indiana. If you are interested in seeing an event like this here, please email me at:

The more we can show support for creating the event the more organizations will be willing to support the event.

Thanks for reading!!
Take good care,

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's cold but the garden is still producing

Even after several frosts and two freezing nights we still have veggies!!

Here's the menu:
Kale 3 kinds
Mustard 5 kinds
Lettuce 6+ kinds
Beet greens
Turnip greens
Radishes in a rainbow of colors
Swish Chard

If you'd like to share in the bounty: greens are $3 a pound ( it takes quite a bit to make a pound) and radishes 50 cents a bunch.

Just give Brian a call at:812*521*1063 and we'll pick fresh as long as it lasts.

PS. We've got eggs!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Something old and Something new

About two miles down the road from our house there is a little country grocery store owned by the McDonalds. It's been there longer than I've been alive and the McDonald's have owned it that whole time. Which in and of itself is pretty amazing.
Just inside the door on your left there is a bulletin board. It has also been there longer than I can remember. People post special events and puppies and kittens, cars, firewood and other things for sale there. I've been checking it for years. You never know when you'll find a treasure.
Well Friday we ran in to get something to drink on the way to town. As is my habit, I stopped to give the bulletin board a quick once over. THERE IT WAS.... something I've been missing for all of my adult life.....
A woodburning cookstove. Specifically an Elmira Stoveworks Sweetheart woodburning cookstove.
Now before you start wondering if I've completely gone off the deep end, let me explain. When I was much, much younger my grandparents bought an old house with all it's contents. One of the things in the house was a woodburning cookstove. They gave that cookstove to my parents for our kitchen.
Of course we had a regular stove too. However, the wood stove gave extra warmth on winter days, simmered great soups when the electricity went out and made a great place to finish boiling down maple sap into syrup. The oven also made a good place to dry out your sneakers on rainy long as you didn't close the even door! More than once I put my socks on the warming shelf above the cooking lids before I went to bed so that I could have warm socks to put on in the morning when the house was chill from the night.
So as you can see woodburning cookstoves hold a special place in my heart full of warm memories.. pardon the pun.
So there was this stove all black cast iron and shiny chrome. I pulled off one of the phone number slips. I then proceeded to hem and haw about calling. Brian finally called. It turned out the owners lived just a little way down the road from us, so we went off to take a look.
It was just a wonderful up close as it looked in the picture! The lady even had the original owners manual and a cookstove cookbook. I really wanted it but didn't think we could swing the $500 asking price.
I told them we'd need to think about it and we'd call back in the morning. Well we didn't think very long. Brian called back that same night and asked what their bottom dollar was. The nice little old lady, who had owned the stove, told him she had been talking with her husband and he said since we wanted it so bad he would let it go for $400.
Brian, Kate and Dillon went after it on Saturday morning while I cooked buttermilk pancakes for breakfast. Now it's in our garage, waiting for the new chimney in the sunroom to be built.
I can hardly wait!!

Saturday, October 11, 2008


It's that time of year again - persimmons are falling! We have persimmon pulp for sale again. This is Brian's favorite time of year. Persimmon pudding is his favorite food. :)

Brian and I are picking up persimmons every morning now. The trees are loaded! You have to watch out when you're picking them up or one will konk you on the head. And it's still early in the season, just wait 'til we have our first frost and they really start to fall.

Brian is chief in charge of pulping the gallons of ripe persimmons we've been gathering. He's taken to rewarding himself by making a deliciously sweet persimmon pudding from each batch.

Hmmmm is he gaining weight?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Is anybody out there?

Hey, I'm starting to think I'm talking to myself!

I'd love to hear your comments about my blog... even if it's just to correct my spelling and puncuation!


History Lesson

Recently I spent my commuting time listening to "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan. Both of which I would recommend to anyone concerned about what they are eating and where it comes from. I've also been following the distressing happenings in our economy. So when my mother returned from one of her little old lady outings to the antique store with 3 books in hand entitled Stories and Recipes of the Great Depression of the 1930's by Rita Van Amber, i thought maybe I should read them. The three book set is a compilation of recollections of Great Depression survivors and their recipes. Sort of cookbook/history books.
Does this sound familiar? "First banks became worthless. Then businesses and factories closed their doors one after the other when consumer buying came to a virtual standstill. . . There was no money flow. The structure of the American society had disintegrated." Wow! It reads like a commentary ripped right from today's paper.
And that was in the first few pages. In subsequent pages the author quotes folks who lived through the depression. Here are some nuggets quoted from the last "worst" fiscal disaster this country has known.
"The Depression was a good education."
" We had the cellar full of canned goods and vegetables..."
"Raisins were 5 cents a pound. But you seldom had 5 cents."
"Prices were terrible. Banks closed and we lost what we had...I sold 4 cords of wood for 50 cents."
"Milk toast, Ugh! Father called it graveyard stew."
"We all wore the same dresses at school. They were made out of old feed bags and only one neighbor had a pattern. So we all used the same pattern with the same rickrack around the neck, sleeves and hems."

"Eat it up. Wear it out. Make it do. Or do without." That was the motto during the Great Depression.

Perhaps we would to well to take a lesson from the past?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Trolling for lions

Last Tuesday, Brian and I went over to the other side of Gosport to pick up our new ram and a few ewes to add to our little flock of Shetland sheep. For once things went smoothly and we arrived early. While waiting patiently for Gail to get home from work, we reintroduced ourselves to her kittens and her LGD.

When Gail arrived, we set out to the paddocks to look over the prospects. First we caught the new ram, Jeff, haltered him and took him out to the trailer. Not a difficult feat, Jeff is very friendly. Then we started looking over the 100+ head of sheep for the few we wanted to purchase. Imagine a sea of wool in every possible color swirling around you.

Gail asked if I saw anything I thought I wanted. I admitted my head was swimming a bit from all the milling around.

Gail said, "Well, since you are here. . . " Being a farm girl I new what that meant - we were about to become assistant sheep sorters! Brian just looked puzzled.

First we sort out all the lambs - males in the far stall, females in the near. Brian was catching them 2 at a time and putting them over the fence to me and Gail. Then Gail had us catch each of the rams, halter them and secure them to the fence. After 23 rams, I thought I just about had the rope halters figured out!

Now it was time to lead the rams into a new pasture. Brian handed me the lead. The ram bounced along a the end of the lead like his feet were made of springs. The next couple led nicely. And then there was a little grey ram. The minute I touched the lead he laid down on his side and refused to budge.

"Just PULL" Gail yelled. She chuckled as I pulled and slid that grey ram on it's side all the way across the paddock. When I handed the rope to her, she said, "A friend of mine calls that "Trolling for lions!"

Saturday, August 23, 2008

More fencing...and more...

Ok it's been 3 days since my last post and the fence isn't finished yet. After dropping the post pounder on my shoulder while pounding about 40 posts by myself. I finally admitted defeat for the day.

Besides I needed Brian's insight into just exactly where to run the fence through the woods so that we can reach 3 separate water tanks with a minimum of water hose. So Thursday morning I shouldered my new toy - a Stihl weedeater. Together we made short work of all the weeds, grass and other things that might short out the new fence. While I mowed down weeds and grass, Brian was baling on the other side of the farm. We got done about the same time... well he was done at least. I was just plain tuckered out! We took a break for lunch and lots of water and then we hit the fence together.

About 1/2 way across the dam we ran out of weedeater string. That precipitated a trip back to the garage, a careful reading of the pertinent "how to" in the owners manual, a few cuss words, turning the manual upside down to get the right perspective on the diagram and putting the brush blade on. Whew!

The blade is awesome!!! It's like having a little chainsaw on a long handle! Look out multiflora rose!! Take that thistles!! I felt a little like the super hero of pasture fences. :)

Yes, I let Brian play with the new toy. He did the stretch of fence on the rest of the dam. We got 2 of the 5 strands of electric wire run across the dam before we had to quit for the day.

These are times when many hands would make lighter work. At the very least a spooler that would carry 5 spools of wire would make it easier and faster to pull the fence. Maybe this winter Brian can weld one up and somehow attach it to the 4-wheeler... hmmmm?!?

"Honey, I have an idea. . ."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A sheepish adventure

Yesterday, Brian and I took a little car trip to see Gail Former's sheep. She has over 100 Shetlands.

Watching her call in the sheep was like watching a multicolored tide of wool come in. Both Gail and we have sheep from the same breeder. Gail is helping us get our paperwork straightened out. We are also shopping for a new ram.

When we pulled in the driveway, a big wooly brown ram with beautiful curly horns came right up to me at the fence. I looked at Brian. "It's Jeff! She has Jeff."
We had looked at Jeff when we bought our other sheep, but the breeder had been reluctant to sell him and he had a runny nose at the time. We always steer clear of animals that even vaguely look like they aren't healthy. So we didn't pursue it any further at the time.

Now Jeff looks great!! And Gail says he is available. We are going back to get him soon. He'll make a great ram for our little flock.

In light of that development, I have been building fence all day. Before we can bring Jeff home we have to take Ramone out of the herd and wean the babies. We are moving the goats too. They are going into a brushy area. They'll help get the brush cleaned up and they'll enjoy the job too.

The sheep are going to a new grassy area with a bit more shade than they have now. I should be able to finish the fence tonight. Then move the water troughs tomorrow. I'm planning on building new feed troughs too. Then everybody will be set until the end of October when we'll rotate again.

So for now I'm off to pound fence posts.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Exploring the omnivore's dilemma

I spend two hours 3-4 days a week driving to and from work. I’ve grown tired of the music on the radio. It seems like it’s all the same news every evening on the news stations. I need something different to occupy my mind. This week I made a trip to the library to check out an audio book.

I wasn’t sure listening to a book would be enough to keep me awake on the way home at 4am, but I thought it would be more interesting than the same songs over and over followed by the same news repeated endlessly on the radio.

Many of our market customers have been telling us they have read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. So I asked the librarian if it was available. This week I have been listening to The Omnivore’s Dilemma on my commute.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma explores “what’s for dinner?” from the origin of food to its eventual consumption at the dinner table. Yesterday, I learned more than I ever thought to know about the sexual reproduction, history and economy of corn in North America, why Earl Butt’s really was not a friend to the American farmer and why no matter what the price of corn we keep growing more and more of the yellow stuff.

Today, we’ve moved from corn production to the feed lots of Kansas. Did you know they feed fat to cattle? Fat that is shipped in from the processing plant where the steers will be killed– cattle fat. That the diet of corn and additives are totally unnatural for a grazing animal and lead to disease in the cattle. So much so that the big lots have to keep a vet on staff. Cattle at slaughter are frequently found to have abscessed livers.

The author is following one steer from the ranch it was born on in South Dakota to the Kansas feedlot where it is fattened to the slaughter house to his table. It is an interesting tale. Scary but interesting.

Points to ponder:

The manure is collected in a “lagoon”, a vast pool of poop. When asked why they don’t spread it on neighboring farm fields, the author is told farmers don’t want it. They don’t want it because it is too high in nitrogen and phosphorus, not to mention heavy metals. The manure would kill their crops. Wow! On our place manure isn’t waste. It is fertilizer. It closes the circle of production. For example: the cows eat the grass, they produce manure, the manure helps the grass grow, and the cows eat the grass. A circle. They way nature meant it to be.
Downstream the heavy metals, nitrogen, phosphorus cause changes in amphibians and fish. Scary! So what are they doing to us?
Fecal dust causes respiratory and eye irritation for the cattle confined there. On our farm there isn’t much in the way of dust because the earth is covered by growing plants. Plants that feed our animals and keep our air clean.
Cattle fed on corn produce meat that is highly marbled but also high in cholesterol. It’s not red meat that is bad for your cholesterol levels its cholesterol. We raise our cattle as they were intended – on grass. Naturally lower in cholesterol. And I think happier and healthier.
32 lbs of corn each day is fed per steer to create 4 lbs of gain per steer/day. That’s a lot of corn!!
Without routine antibiotics the feedlot would not be possible.
E. coli a new strain, is found in these feedlots and can cause kidney failure in humans. Once again – SCARY!

I won’t tell you everything I’ve heard and all the things that concerned/ frightened me. It would take too long. I will recommend this book to you as a must read - or a must listen if you have a commute like mine.

Take care and be safe,


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Roadside sign

Lettuce, kale, kohlrabi...

I pass the same roadside vegetable sign every day on the way to work. It's a plain black sign with white letters. Whatever is ready that day is painted on the sign.

Green onions, garlic, green tomatoes...

I've gotten in the habit of reading it each day to see what's new in the farmer's garden. Kind of my way of seeing how another farmer is doing in this difficult growing year.

Bunnies, carrots, cabbage...

This week there was a new listing at the very bottom:


By the time it registered what the sign said I was past the turn. I couldn't resist. I turned around in the next driveway and went back to see what "Bad Advice" the farmer had to offer.

What I found was a thin, young man in a bandana under a lean-to style stand surrounded by vegetables and rather humorous signs. Above his head the sign said, "Have a good day, Have a bad day, It's not up to me it's your choice." Another sign said, "Lost dog: blind, deaf has only 3 legs - answers to the name of 'Lucky'".

I smiled and struck up a conversation. We compared garden woes and successes. Moaned about the wet cool spring and the floods and swapped a few garden stories. I ended up buying some hard necked garlic to add to my garlic collection in the herb garden. I was just about to leave when I realized I hadn't asked about the "bad advice".

"Oh by the way, how much for the bad advice?" I asked.

"It's free."

"Ok, then, what's you best bad advice?"

"Start a farming/garden business in a year when it rains and floods all the time," he smiled.

We both laughed as I got into the car and headed on down the road.

Can't wait to see what the sign says this week! :)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

What I know about raising chickens

This started out as an email to my friend, Marian, in Missouri. I thought I'd republish it here just in case anyone else wanted to hear my 2 cents worth on chickens. :)

For what it's worth, this is what I know:

Fresh eggs always taste better than store bought. The yolks are thicker and yellower and they stand up nice and round in the frying pan.

Chickens need oyster shell, and a balanced ration (make sure it has B vitamins), and greens to make really good eggs.

Chickens will stop laying for a while every single time you change something in their environment.

Chickens more than 2 summers old should go in the stew pot - slow cooker. They make an excellent flavorful broth.

If you are finding dead free range birds in the morning that are decapitated it's an owl.

Raccoons will kill hens and steal eggs.

Snakes can get through a hole less than an inch in diameter.

Weasels will kill until there are no chickens left and they leave a bloody mess.

Hawks will carry the chicken off and eat it elsewhere... you may find feathers.

Gather eggs in the afternoon around 5 pm.

Most hens lay after 10 am so gathering them early in the am just means you are getting yesterdays eggs.

In winter birds will lay fewer eggs if they are cold... they need all their energy to generate heat. We used to keep a heat lamp in their house.. This year we will house them in the unheated greenhouses.

Banty chickens are tough little birds that can fly an incredible distance - for a chicken.

Chicken tractors are a great way to allow your birds access to pasture everyday without making them targets for any critter looking for a free lunch or a midnight snack.

Little children love to gather eggs.

There you go. Everything I know about chickens in a nutshell.

Coming soon... how we build our chicken tractors.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Our version of the chicken tractor

Our first chicken tractor involved the use of an old sign, a helmet rack scavenged from a baseball dugout that was being torn down and assorted scrap lumber. We’ve made a few improvements since then.

Our hen tractors are 3 feet tall and 7 feet wide by 8 feet long. Brian builds the nest box first. We use a “gang” box. One nest box the width of the pen 10 inches deep and 10 inches tall without any dividers. The back of the nest box is a single 1 X 10” hinged at the bottom to make a door for gathering the eggs. We create a lip on the front of the box to keep the nesting material in by using scrap lumber we scavenge from the local pallet mill. The nest box is mounted at each corner to a 2” X 2” leg, 36” long.

Next, Brian builds the base. The current version of the hen tractor uses landscape timbers that have been split in half using the table saw. It’s what we had available at the time. You could use 2”x 2” or 2” X 4” if you prefer or have some lying about.
After the base is nailed together and the nest box on its legs is attached to the back, then it’s time to put in the uprights (2” X 2” X 36”) one in each corner and one 5 feet back from the leading edge of the pen. Once the uprights are in place, then the top rail is nailed on and 2 crossbars are added to the top. Be sure your crossbars are 3 and 5 feet from the front. These crossbars will support your chicken wire. One top bar will support the door and hinges so you can access the pen. One bar supports your chicken wire so it doesn’t sage too much. We use a roll of 36 inch tall wire and one of 24 inch tall wire. The short wire just fits below the nest box and on the narrow part of the top and the 36 inch wire covers all the rest with a minimum of cutting.

Next comes the door. We built one with a door that goes the width of the cage, but decided later we liked a door about ½ the width of the tractor. It’s easier to manage and easier to open. We used plastic corrugated roofing to cover the door and the area just in front of the nest box. It’s doesn’t add as much weight to the finished tractor as metal roofing. When you are moving these pens every day minimizing weight is important.

Last comes the tedious part - applying the chicken wire. Make sure you have plenty of chicken wire staples handy and a good dose of patience. It takes longer to put the wire on than it does to build the rest of the tractor. We put staples about 6 inches apart. You want a good tight pen so you don’t get nocturnal visitors in your tractor.

The last things we attach are the wheels. We use old lawnmower wheels when we can get them and replacement lawnmower wheels from the local hardware when we can’t. Each wheel is attached to the outside of a corner with a lag bolt.

Tah Dah!! Now all you need to do is add some hay for the nest box and a few chickens and you’ll have fresh eggs every day.

If you have questions or you've created a better design, we'd love to hear from you.
Email us at:

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Over dinner one evening, Brian and I lamented the fact we had so few laying hens and so many people who wanted farm fresh eggs from our pastured hens. We bemoaned the lack of egg salad, custard and scrambled eggs around our house. We jokingly said we wished someone would offer us some more hens. That another 20 hens or so would be great.

This is a case of be careful what you wish for.

The next morning the phone rang bright and early. I picked up. "Hi this is Terry. Is Marilyn home?" Marilyn is my mother who lives with us. "I'm afraid she's not," I replied. "Can I help you?"

Well, Terry went on to tell me that his neighbor was in poor health and needed to find a new home for a few laying hens. I took the neighbor's number and gave it to Brian. I didn't think anymore about it. I needed to pick veggie shares and get off to work.

That evening at Brian called me at work. Brian never calls me at work unless it's an emergency. My heart was in my throat as I answered the phone.

"Honey, can we buy 100 laying hens this week?"

"What did you say?"

Brian repeated himself again.

"I thought Terry said "a few hens"?"

"If we want them we have to get them tomorrow."

I did some mental math. We really could use more hens. We'd need to build 4 new movable pasture pens pronto. Opportunity only knocks once, so they say.


Now we are the proud caretakers of 100 Golden Comet hens. :) The girls along with the 6 Araucana hens we already had now give us 6-7 dozen wonderful eggs a day.

Who says God doesn't answer prayers?

Got eggs? We do!!


Saturday, July 5, 2008


Night before last, at about 10 o'clock, we had our first experience with a weasel. In all the years I've lived on a farm I'd never seen a weasel. I'd heard about the way they can slip into a seemingly pest proof henhouse, that weasels get blood lust and just kill and kill until all of the hens are dead.

Brian suddenly remembered we hadn't gotten the mail. So he hopped in the Honda and headed up the driveway. A minute later, he came backing down the driveway like a NASCAR driver stuck in reverse.

He hopped into the house (he has a very sore knee, but that's different story) yelling, "Weasel! Get out of the way!" He snatched up his 22 rifle and headed back out the door. A few seconds later mom and I counted upwards of 10 shots fired.

Geez, I thought. There must be a whole herd of weasels in the hen pen. A few minutes later Brian came triumphantly through the door.

"What happened?" Mom asked.

Brian gave us all the gory details. When he'd gone to get the mail he heard the commotion in the hen pen and went to check it out. There was the weasel with his pointy little teeth embedded in my favorite Buff Orpington.
"Just one weasel? So why all the gunshots?" I asked. Well it seems the the first shot put the poor little frightened hen out of her misery, then the weasel tried to escape so most of the other shots chased him back into the hen pen so he couldn't get away. The last shot dispatched the little maurauder. We're hoping he doesn't have cousins, aunts and uncles out there waiting to dispatch the 6 remaining hens some dark night.

Our "redneck" honeymoon

I said I'd write about our honeymoon when we got back. Well, we've been back for almost 2 weeks, but it's been so busy I haven't had time to blog. It's been weed, pick, mow, bale, build, feed, water and on and on.

So here we go. On the morning of June 17th we headed to the justice of the peace for a simple ceremony. My daughter in law took pics of the ceremony outside the courthouse. Then we dashed home and picked veggies so I could deliver a CSA share on my way to work. I barely got to work at the hospital on time!

Next morning we left for Missouri, stock trailer in tow. We had a nice visit with Marian and Erik at Five Ponds Farm where we picked up our 3 Red Wattle Hogs. Catching 3 squiggly piglets and getting them into the trailer is tricky. Erik caught the piglets in the pen one by one and handed them to Brian. Did you know piglets poop when they are scared? Yuck! Luckily, I was taking pictures and well out of poop range. Brian, on the other hand, had to change clothes when we were done.

Then we set out for Lexington, Ky via Paduca. Brian and I were taking turns driving. When I took my turn just before we crossed from MO to KY, he neglected to tell me I would have to drive over a bridge built exclusively from some kids erector set! I don't really like bridges and this one was long, tall, narrow and looked like it would fall in the river at any moment. I think I held my breath the whole way across the bridge.... except when I told Brian I wasn't going to drive over any more bridges! When we came down off the bridge, I took a deeep breath and said, "That wasn't so bad." Brian laughed, "I'm glad you think so, cause we're on the island now... you've got one more erector set bridge to go!" "UUUGH!"

We survived the bridge ordeal to check into our hotel in Lexington. We convinced the hotel clerk to let us have a couple of jugs of water for the pigs and got our little red oinkers settled in for the night. We took much needed hot showers. Then it was off for dinner at the Mexican restaurant recommended by the hotel clerk. More food than 4 people could eat!

We spent a restless night and at 6 am it sounded like every car in the city revved up and 50 Harleys pulled out of the parking lot. We got up then even though we had planned to sleep in. We couldn't wait to get back to our quiet country home.

Friday we went out to C2H2 farm to visit with Carol and Clayton and pick up 6 percentage Boer goats to add to our herd. While were there we got an empromtu lesson in tattooing goats. Goats do not particularly like having ID's tattooed in their ears. It's sort of a messy enterprise. The goat goes into a stanchion which secures the neck so the goat can't leave. Then one person tries their best to hold the goat's head still while the goat baas and tries to do everything but hold still. The other person tries to get the tattoo in the right place on the ear. Brian ended up with green hands from the ink.

We finally got everybody tattooed and headed north. We got home late Friday afternoon, turned the new goats out with our herd and set to moving pig panels into place for a temporary home for the Red wattles.

And if all that wasn't enough excitement for one vacation, the next evening I tripped in a tractor rut on the way to take treats to the new pigs! I sprained my ankle and spent the next week on crutches.

So there you go! The tale of our redneck honeymoon. :)

Can't wait to see what we bring home on our next vacation!!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Piggies are coming!!

It's finally here!

Time to go get our Red Wattle piglets. We have been on the waiting list since March. Originally, it looked like we wouldn't get our piglets until December. Marian, from Five Ponds Farm, called us in May and said she had our piglets if we could send the money and come get them soon.

We put the check in the mail the next morning.

So this is a really busy week around here. The weeds in the gardens are growing faster than we can pull or till them. Brian brought home our 4 new brood cows yesterday evening. The beltie is so close to calving he was worried she'd have her baby in the trailer on the ride home! Luckily she didn't. The 2 white park cows should calve soon, too. The fourth cow, Profit, already has a little creamy white calf by her side. For now, all of them will stay in the corral until they are used to their new home.

Today, Brian's moving 100 chicks to pasture pens, fixing the mower, weeding in the gardens, cleaning the stock trailer, setting up the pig hut in the new pasture lot and about a hundred other things to get ready for the piglets.

Tuesday morning, we are going to the justice of the peace to get married. Tuesday afternoon I am going to work at the hospital while Brian packs. Wednesday we're off for a whirlwind 3 day "redneck" honeymoon. We can't really be away from the farm for more than 3 days. My son will be doing the chores while we're away.

We'll be driving to Missouri, Wednesday night we'll spend in a small hotel. Then on Thursday morning its off to pick up the 3 Red Wattle piglets, and the perrenials we're buying from the Van Beevers at Five Ponds Farm ( ). Then off to Kentucky! Thursday night in a hotel for us and the piggles will stay in the trailer with plenty of hay, feed and water.

Friday morning it's off to C2H2 farm to pick up 6 percentage Boer goats from Carol Holler. Once we've got all the goats loaded it's time to get back to the farm. We need to get our hay cut this week while I'm on vacation.....

Talk about adventures in farming!

Stay tuned for updates......I'll post about our trip on Saturday