Farming Recap of 2017
Summed up in one word: FAILURE!
I have to laugh! It was such a year of learning!!! Farming has a way of keeping you humble.
I told my husband that I was bone tired and didn’t want to raise a garden. So HE did! He researched and decided to use black plastic as a weed barrier. He and Kaylee only did a direct seed garden so it wasn’t that many plants but showed that the plastic DOES make a difference. We had a plethora of volunteer tomatoes (a variety I DIDN’T like that we tried a few years back. Too mushy) and volunteer tomatillos that wouldn’t ever ripen. So IF we do a garden this year, we will be using black plastic again.
I didn’t even want to raise meat chickens but Kaylee wanted it to be one of her 4H projects. And if you raise 10 chicks, you might as well do 40 more. Same amount of work. Home raised chicken has a different and richer taste. Not gamey but more flavor. And I know that my animals/meat lived a happy life.
The kids loved raising turkeys so I knew we would do that again too. We timed it so we could raise them all at the same time.
All went well while the chicks were in the brooder. During the first 2 weeks, we keep them in the garage in stock tanks. It’s easier to check on them through out the day. To make sure they are eating and drinking. Is one lethargic? Splayed legs?? And it’s just too cute to hear the little peeps! Then we move them to the brooder in the chicken coop. They are still under a heat lamp and separated from the big birds.
Since we got our personal meat chicks the same time we got K’s 4H chicks, we had to figure out a way to keep them separated once they were all in the big brooder together. My original idea was to put special leg bands on them but the bands were just TOO big and their tiny feet slipped out. So, lets paint their toenails!?!?!? Nope, they wanted to eat it off each others feet. What next!?!? How about dropping food coloring on them!?!?!? That lasted til their baby chick down grew out……. but by then their feet were big enough to have the colored legs bands on them. The leg bands were a good idea and I probably would do it the same way if I had to BUT they grew so fast, the bands grew into their skin. Thankfully their life time was only 9 weeks!
Meat birds don’t have to stay under heat as long as egg layers since they grow so fast and produce so much more heat. So they can move out of the brooder faster. Now that I am reflecting on the year, I should have kept the turkeys in longer than the chicks. But I’m counting everything as a learning experience. NOT a mistake.
We let the chicks out of the brooder when they were about 4 weeks. They could follow the other chickens out of the coop or stay in but it was close to a 100 degrees in the coop, so they all went out.
For the first few nights they are out of the brooder, we have to round them up to go back into the coop. Egg layers follow along with what the other birds do. Meat birds are just plain stupid! We have to train them and that usually involves K slithering under the coop and pushing them out with a broom. Gross! But she is a trooper. What’s going to happen when she gets bigger?
We do this a little before sunset. They started to learn how to do this on their own and I then start realizing we are missing birds. What!?!? Are they dying from the heat? We looked all over the pasture and don’t see dead birds. Then one night, we find a torn apart body under a tree. The next day, I look up in the huge tree and see an owl there, watching me, during the day. An OWL. During the day!
So every evening, we’d head down to scare off the owl. Or attempt to. Nothing actually scared it off. After a week of no more missing birds, we skipped a night. More came up missing. I wanted to shoot the owl. My husband said no. But it’s harming my livestock!!! No.
So he spent hours covering our hoop garden house with netting to protect the chicks. What did I see the next morning? Chicks eaten THROUGH the net!! Holy Hannah. I am MAD. Let’s shoot the owl!!!
To defer to my husband’s wisdom (and obedience to the law), I called Fish and Game. Which referred me to someone else. Well, this other agency showed up and an evaluated my situation. He clearly saw the problem, saw that we tried to fix it legally and set traps for the owl. It is absolutely illegal for ANYone to kill an owl. So even he couldn’t shoot it. But he built two tall traps that had rubber coyote traps on the top. It took a week but FINALLY caught the mama owl! They could move her over 100 miles to another location – to terrorize another farm.
Did you know that when owls get ready to land, they put both their feet down? I had no clue!
So now we have THREE turkey poults left. Please God, let us be able to raise our own thanksgiving turkey! We had planned to sell all but one or two and now we just wanted one or two to survive til Thanksgiving!
We left town to help close camp and came home and found one had drowned in the stock tank for the cows. Ugh. Now down to two. Okay, just a few weeks left. They’re almost full size! Three days before butcher date, a coyote gets the biggest one! So we kept the last remaining one locked in the coop til butcher day. ONE turkey left. Thankfully Riley won a turkey as our family eats more than just one turkey!
We are now researching livestock guardians…….