Friday, September 24, 2010

Hogs vs BAMA

You know tomorrow's game is a pretty big deal when the Goodyear blimp's in town.
A lot of the people reading this won't really care about tomorrow's college football game, but tomorrow's game here in Fayetteville pits #1 Alabama vs #10 Arkansas, the local school.

It's the big game in the nation, and so Razorback Stadium will be packed with around 72,000 people on Saturday. You know you want to cheer on Arkansas, so feel free to call the Hogs tomorrow, we're the dangerous underdog - you know you want to cheer us on.

I like college football - to me it's a lot like local food. Arkansas doesn't have, nor will it ever have a professional sports team. This is true of a lot of the big college teams, especially in the South, Mid-west - Alabama, LSU, Arkansas, Oklahoma State (my wife Carla's a graduate), Nebraska, Oregon & Oregon State, Boise St, etc - you get the idea. How about you? Who do you root for?

Today's all about the Hogs though - Woo Pig Sooie!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dogs First Confirmed Kill

Well, it's a start. Even though this little possum couldn't have done much damage now, it's comforting to know that the dogs will kill smaller potential predators. I know coyotes drive them nuts, but coons and possums can do a great deal damage to a flock as well, so their protection against the little guy brings some piece of mind.

This constitutes quite an invigorating day if you're a hen as you can see in the picture above.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Think Before you Cut

I'm steadily clearing out rouge trees from the pasture. In some spots, the trees are sycamores a foot in diameter at the base, in other spots they're just really dense stands of locust, cedar, or elm, depending on the soil type, depth, and moisture. Since the pasture is on a north facing slope, some of the big sycamores were casting pretty big shadows. So I've cut them down and used the branches and logs to dam up gulleys. The leafy branches go in first and the heavy logs on top - it makes a good soil trap.

Below was a chinquapin oak that had to come down. This thing was trying to kill me. As I looked over it, there was just about every trap that could be built in this tree old barbwire strands running through the middle of the tree, a limb high up that would have caught and angled other trees down on top of me if I didn't cut this tree get the idea. Dropping trees is pretty safe as long as you're alert, take your time, eye your tree, back up, eye the other trees around, and your saw is sharp. The thing that really burns you is when you do something stupid like above. This limb was holding the felled oak up, and I did a stupid cut that pinned my Husq as you can see in the picture above. It took me about an hour to extract my chainsaw, and my extraction strategy consisted of a handsaw and beating the branch with a steel t-post driver. Eventually I was able to get the saw back out. The closest calls I've had happened on felled trees in this exact situation. It's a good reminder. Spending an hour banging on a log because of stupidity helps you pay attention next time.
In between bashing the limb with the t-post driver, I noticed a rough green tree snake that had taken an unexpected earthbound trip. He got away before the chickens found him and had a snakey protein snack,

The goats were quick to munch on the tree's leaves. Normally, they don't get access to oak leaves, so it was a welcomed treat. Chinquapin oak burns hot, not as hot a hickory, but it'll keep us warm next winter after it ages a spell.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Gerald Fry - Selecting Good Grass Cattle

This Saturday, I went to the local Grass Grazers Group. It's a pretty neat deal, typically they do pasture walks once every month or so, and if you want to talk about rotational grazing, this is a pretty good group to do it with. Unfortunately, like most agricultural groups around the country, there's not a lot of people in the group that have any color left in their hair. The average age of the group was probably just under 60 years.

Gerald Fry, a grazing/hay only cattle farmer from down in Rose Bud came up to speak to us about selecting good cattle. The run down of what he had to say was showing us how to select masculine bulls and feminine heifers and selecting a proportional cow. We also looked at determining meat quality through things like the thickness of the hide, etc.
This bull was judged a not great male to expand a herd. The hide was tough, his nuts were twisted, etc. The guys up above are measuring him, checking his proportions. It was guessed that he'd have a really poor tenderloin, and the meat would be tough.
This heifer was judge to be a really good, feminine cow. Turns our she was from the best cow in the farmer's herd. It was neat to hear the guys judge a farmer's cow, make guesses about the cow's performance and have the farmer grade their guess.

I've seen this same stuff work miracles breeding productivity back into turkey, laying hens, and meat breeds of chickens that have lapsed into inefficency since they've been largely replaced by modern hybrids. Ironically, a good structured cow gets dinged in the sale barn. Feedlots are in the business of selling supplements and inputs, not efficiency. They don't care if a farmer stays in business or not.

Coincidentally, I was talking to a friend last night who came over to our house, telling her about the workshop. Turns out her dad is a buyer at a sale barn in another part of the state, and he has beautiful, productive cattle, but those aren't the kind of cows he sends to the feedlot.

Have you ever noticed that old black and white pictures of cattle, sheep, etc look completely different than the same breeds today? Back in the day they looked like furry barrels.

Carla and I are looking into getting cattle in the next few years. With the new pastures opening up, we'll have around 20 acres of good pasture in a couple of years. Enough to have a small herd to feed us, and once we get past the learning curve of figuring out what we're doing, we have the option to lease land and build up a small herd. Or we may not get cattle at all. We'll make the choice when we get there.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Some Logged Land Pics

This is on the northern border of the property. You can see I-540 off if you look in between the trees. The view is really opening up, and you can see the hills on the other side of the West Fork. I think it's mighty beautiful
So the loggers are leaving a lot of treetops and small tree too small to make mini-logs than get knocked down by the skid-steer. The price on pulp is really low, and you have to haul pulp all the way down to Ashdown in the southern part of Arkansas. At $2.00/ton, I'd rather have the debris left on the ground where it'll catch soil.
This is at the foot of the property. It's going to make some beautiful pasture. I've sowed orchardgrass and some red clover already. I'm taking it easy on the clover because I don't want bloat to be a worry. Tonight Carla and I are going to go sow wheat and annual ryegrass to try and get some forages started to hold the soil. There's a lot of hickory stumps laying around, and these will throw off massive shoots (copice) for the next couple of years, which will make excellent goat browse.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Rough Green Snake

The rough green snake is a pretty neat critter. It's not particularly big, but as far as snakes go, it can be pretty cute. It's emerald green because it's favorite place to hang out is in the tree tops. In late spring, the females nest in tree cavities, and will use the same spot year after year if it stay unoccupied.
This snake lives off of spiders mostly, but the occasional katydid, dragonfly, or appropriately sized tree frog can be quite the delectable treat. Green snakes are incredibly flexible, a trait that comes in quite useful when your snakey life depends on not plummeting 60 ft out of a hickory tree. You can see in the photo above just how adapted the rough green snake is to tree top life as I transfer it from a stick onto an oak sapling.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Drought Time Fun

Drought Range Chickens
The Stand-Off

Kola, Alfredo, and Zanzi. Note the 3 year-old attached to the stick lurking in the background

What a life