Sunday, August 29, 2010

Dozing in the Holler

Zzz...I mean Vroom, vroom, clank, clank & various other dozer, not dozing sounds.

We're logging a bunch of timber off of benches and gentle slopes on our property. Above is the loading area for cut trees. A semi with a full trailer load of logs has to be able to turn around then make it out to our driveway. This'll make a great pasture in a year or so.

I'm wanting to open up some land into more pastures. One section of land I'll be opening will be southeastern facing near the house and will be an ideal place for the goats and future ruminants during the winter time due to proximity to our home and drier ground than the pasture across the creek. It'll also allow me more options when it comes to rotating pastures.

The turkeys will go on this land as well, as it's never had chickens and should be Blackhead free.

I'm using a logger that lives down the road a couple of miles. This job's small, probably only 8 or 9 acres, and he didn't mind doing it as long as we were willing to deal with no set date for logging. See, as he hauls equipment back from a bigger job, we're on the way home, and even though just a small 3 or 4 week job, it'll be worth their time. I've got to know the loggers and the crew pretty well over the past couple of months, and they're honest guys. I've walked the property with them, explained what I wanted, and they seem to be on board.

We're really nervous, for good reason, but they're not into creating moonscapes where forests would be. They'll leave trees 6 inches and below in diameter, so there should be enough light to get forest floor vegetation starting to grow next spring, and we can fine tune by taking out small trees later on. The stumps, especially the hickorys, will send alot of shoots up (copice) that'll make terrific goat forage next year. I'm looking at this as a 5 or so year project. We'll see.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What's Left of the Turkey Flock

I'd have around 50 more turkeys if a disease called Blackhead wouldn't have kicked my rear.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Baby Wasps Got to Eat

Here's a doting motherly wasp on my driveway. You'll notice she's got a spider in tow. Earlier she found this spider and stung it just enough to permanently paralyze it. She'll haul it back to her nest, probably made of mud in some inconvenient place on equipment or in my shop, and lay her eggs on this spider. Since the spider is paralyzed, it'll stay fresh until the wasp larva hatch. Then the babies buffet will begin. Good for the wasps, not so good for the spider. Nature's not all bunnies and rainbows is it?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Pickin' Up PawPaws & Puttin' Em in My...Desk?

"Pickin up PawPaws, Put 'em in my pocket!"
"Pickin up PawPaws, Put 'em in my pocket!"
"Pickin up PawPaws, Put 'em in my pocket!"
"Way down yonder in the PawPaw patch."

So I work in an old civil war home off the square in the city square in Fayetteville. On MWF, there's a hot dog stand there. Our fruit specialist where I work and I went to grab a dog the other day. He's been doing a lot of work on pawpaw fruit production lately, so we had PawPaws on our minds. He talks about pawpaws, I talk about poultry, the sheep and goat people talk about sheep and goats, the farm energy people talk about farm energy, well, you get the idea.

The fruit below is a ripe PawPaw. The PawPaw is native to the Midwestern/Eastern US. It's actually a member of a mostly tropical fruit family, even though it occurs all the way up into Michigan. The smell of a PawPaw is quite heady, like a mix between a banana & pineapple. You eat the inside which has a consistency somewhere between a ripe cantaloupe and custard and the taste is really fruity, and complex. It's quite an experience. The tree is just as interesting, with big emerald green leaves, obligate to shade as a sapling, and flowers that go after flies with a flower that smells like roadkill instead of flowers that lure pollinators with perfume
While I was getting my hot dog, guy found a pawpaw tree and picked an unripe fruit right off the square. While he was buying his hot dog, full of kraut the way God intended, I walked over to the PawPaw tree and check under it, found a ripe one lying on the ground, and snatched it up. It's the thing that looks like a potato, but it smelled heavenly.
Apparently, there are two pawpaw trees on the square, and I picked the right one while the fruit expert picked the wrong one. Yeah, I'm not gonna let that go soon! To his credit though, he gave me half of the PawPaw as a sort of finder's keeper reward.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Lots of Forages, even in a drought

So after some initial hitches, we've goat a decent herd (for us) of goats down in the pasture. There's lots of good forage for them, and to be honest, most of our field is a goat paradise. I think even 30 goats wouldn't be able to keep up with the lespedeza, and there's tons of cedar to snack on in the winter.
Despite the drought, the trees and shrubs are fairing well due to their deep roots. The video below shows just how great our goat forage is - wild grape, redbud, greenbriar, and lespedeza! What a treat!

And no, despite Simmey's pumpkin, it's not Halloween - and besides, our pasture would be a horrible place for trick or treating!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Billy's Got 9 New Girlfriends

So our start in goats has mirrored the land we're working - rough. First, we lost a goat when she got into the chicken feed. Then we lost two of our girls in the past month-long heat wave either because of parasites that they brought in or dehydration b/c they'd never come down the mountain to the watering area. It was frustrating, especially because I was gone on military duty for a couple of weeks, and I probably would have caught the problems. But our billy goat, Billy, has thrived. We also feel like we understand goats a lot more now - their needs, how they think, where they'll go, ie I feel like we're getting into goat husbandry.

One of my co-workers has a sheep and goat operation, and her family's become overstocked with the recent drought. So we worked out a deal where they can board some of their goats, and we'll get some of the trees and brush worked down into goat poop to start fertilizing our poor hillside soils. We'll also probably get some goat kids, as Billy has been peeing on his beard (yeah, gross to us, but hot to the goat ladies) and some of the females are starting to cycle.

Here's the new goat ladies, they're a mix of dairy and other breeds. They're in the training pen, and man, they were happy to have fresh forage. They're in the pen to make sure that they understand that the electric fence hurts, and that "Hey, I shouldn't try to push through it, because it shocks the bejezus out of me, and I don't get anywhere anyway". The training pen is fenced with both electric and field fence to make sure there's no jailbreaks.Before turning the ladies in with Billy, we wormed them. This'll kill a good deal of their worms before they get into the main pasture. With the amount of brush and forage available and the low stocking density, the goats should be okay and need no further worming. We checked Billy while we were at it too, and although he fought like crazy, as you can see above he was still willing to gobble the treats Simmey fed him. His condition was really good, but his eyelid color was pretty pale, indicative of blood loss to parasites, probably exacerbated by the month long drought and high heat/humidity.So we wormed Billy as well. It'll probably be the last time he's ever wormed. Tomorrow, we'll turn the ladies in with him, and he'll be one happy/busy buck.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Old Homesteader Well

So it's been nearly a month since we had any rain. Coupled with weeks of temps often hitting the triple digit mark, this drought has really thrown a wrench in the works. The pastures are fried, and the creek that we pump our water out is dry. Even the swimming hole that isn't supposed to go dry is parched. So what to do, what to do. Well, there's an old homesteader well at the back corner of our pasture. I've avoided using it in the past, as a crazy old hermit who owns 4 acres in the middle of our property claimed that it was his side, even though when I bought the property I was told the creek was the boundary, and the well's on my side of the creek. In fact, my fenceline is like 10 ft behind the well.So the hermit guy died a couple of months back, I've never seen a survey to prove otherwise, and my animals need water. So I'm going off what I was told when I bought the property and this evening I went and checked the well out. Here it is (I'm standing in the dry creek bed).

So here's the well. There was water around 8 ft down. The well is really neat. I've never looked at it up close (it used to be covered with quite the pile of brush), but it's made out of river rock and mortar the entire way down. The family that homesteaded the holler really worked hard on this well. I couldn't see the bottom, when I pump water out, I'll measure how deep it is.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I'm Back & Tasty Meat Birds

Wow. It's been a while. I was off on military duties for a while and have been catching up since I got back. I'll write about it sometime.

I'm currently canning 12 qts of tomatoes, nightime's the time to do it because today was really hot. As in record breaking hot. We broke the 100 degree mark for the first time this year. Ft. Smith, in the river valley south of the mountains, hit 107 today. And that's not even factoring in the oppressive humidity!

The weather's been so hot, even our cast iron meat birds, the Freedom Rangers, haven't been able to cope, and we've lost a few to the heat. Carla noticed today that it's too hot for them to get up and get to the waterer, and we've got them parked in the forest. Luckily, I'll take the last half of the flock to the processor on Thursday morning. We took just under 50 birds last monday to be cut up, and we've got around 50 more left that will be left whole as roasters. We're really impressed with the birds. Minus the current heat wave, we had 1 bird out of a hundred die, and the little hen had always been sickly & a runt. At 11 weeks, the average wt. was around 4.75 lbs, and the meat was still tender even cooked on the grill as you can see by the deliciousness below!T
Tomorrow, I'll put more waterers in with the chickens, and I'm filling one up with some loose ice we have. Hopefully it'll be enough. We're definitely not used to this heat up in the mountains.