Leaving the Edges, and Frogs

In the bible there’s a principle shown in God’s law. Don’t over harvest your fields. When you harvest the field just make one pass over it. Leave what’s left on the ground for others to come and glean from. Leave something on the edges that can help others, and the whole community can prosper. A short and beautiful story that centers around this concept is the book of Ruth.

Leaving margin for others to flourish pays off. I don’t often see it this clearly though.

June showers bring…

This hose repair has been so bad that my co-farmer-lady removed it from the yard and stuck it out in the pasture. But it really was useful! The frogs certainly enjoy the showers.

THE vacation destination for tree frogs

Even when the water is off they can be found nestled in the brick crevices. They’re multiplying and moving into the garden, devouring some of our pests. We’ve even discovered that a pile of grass clippings in the garden becomes a home for these cold blooded allies. It’s moist and cool and a perfect lair to lurk upon Larry the Lima bean muncher insects.

Turns out, leaving something on the edges of the field can help the fields bring in a greater harvest for the whole community.

Pole Barn Post Repair

I used an auger to clear a post hole, stuck a cardboard sleeve 36in deep and filled it with concrete. Set an anchor for a 4×4 in there.

Then I took a 4×4, cut it to length and drilled out a socket for the bottle jack stem to sit in. This is the brace to push up on the joists to lift the roof.

That’s jacked up, man.

Then I put a 4×4 in the post anchor and aligned to the lifted post. Ran an auger drill bit through the good wood. Bind these together with threaded rod, washers and bolts.

Repeat for 3 posts, each a mildly different story that rhymes with the first.

Top beam is lifted to level

I think it worked, or at least is a solid C grade. Some of the rafters in the roof that had shivered from being unsupported came back together, so some marked improvement is in place.

Still cant keep the goats out of here though. They are persistent.

Cutting Experiment

It’s experiment season. What if we take rapidly moving steel and make it cut down grass and weeds after cows graze through?

The pasture close to a driveway has a bunch of wild tomatoes growing in it. They are prickly and the cows won’t graze around it. Let’s graze and the cut the weeds down and see if the grass grows back faster to dominate the weeds.

Small farm, small Deere.

No herbicides to kill the natural variety. No fertilizers beyond the hundreds of pounds dumped by the cows and goats every time they pass through. Count the mulched up grass clippings as fertility improvement as well.

Cuts comparison

Will it work? I hope so. We’ll know more next spring after the experiment runs it’s course.

Surprises

You never know what will pop up when you walk the pasture. Jenny found this:

In a pasture that looked like this:

I expect it’s a duck egg. But it’s more interesting to imagine: A renegade hen who escaped from confinement housing. Beth is now laying about open pastures with free range egg strategies. You know, like the plans of the noble fowl in the seminal documentary Chicken Run.

Got the Blues

Part of the beauty of our farm property is a building that was a milking parlor for a dairy operation. We’ve converted it into a feed storage, workshop and child development facility.

Last year our livestock really wanted the feed inside. They broke the door from this building into the pole barn pasture. The quick and dirty farm fix was : board it up with Craigslist pallets. Then I walked away until more time was available.

This past week time was available. We’re always looking to improve it process, and waste time is often walking the long way around because this door doesn’t work.

New door becomes blue door

A friend of mine was unhappily required to run an estate sale for a family member. I was happy to find a new home for this door. The color choice is driven by the best outdoor grade paint on the ‘Oops’ rack at Lowe’s. I spray the first coat with the sprayer and walk away.

Rock the goat would not let this process go without protest. He left his marks all over the door. So the second coat needed some prep work.

The curiosity may kill the cat, but here, it gloms to the goat.

“Snake Season is Here!”

“Snake season is here! No really, look at all these posts on Facebook about snakes this week!” So Jenny shares a comment stream about monster snakes coming out in our county. It is spring after all.

She does have cause for concern. Last year I eliminated 3 cottonmouths from the property. We put cats into the workshop to deter them. If the cats eat the rodents, the snakes don’t have food. They also don’t like snakes and will kill small ones.

One of last year’s rake cruisers

I scoff. “Snakes won’t be around. The cats will keep them away, haven’t seen anything since August anyways.” Within 24 hours I was required to recant.

Let me stop in the shop for a
YIKES

Mr(s) Rat Snake was perched in my shop window. “Where are these crafty kittens? How can the cats let an invasion happen? Why hasn’t this snake moved in the time I took these pictures?”

Wasp on the case, but totally really not looking at Mr(s). Rat Snake

I go into the shop and find perfect stillness. Not a tongue flicks out, not a glance at the snake. Oh sure, the cat Wasp was moving all about licking herself and looking all around this serpent, but never at the serpent. The stalemate is real. Snake can’t go forward, and backing up exposes the neck. The cat Wasp can’t make a move because the distance is to far. So no one moves to the fight.

I’ve introduced the boys to Kipling’s The Jungle Books. There’s a recurring theme in the loosely fitting narratives. The eyes of the snake contain paralysis and death. Don’t look at the snake! It’s in Mowgli stories and Ricki Ticki Tavi, the mongoose who kills malevolent cobras. I thought it was a mythological apparatus Kipling incorporated, but maybe it’s more then that. He was a keen observer of the wild.

After 5 minutes of watching and having Jenny come see, I pulled the snake out on a rake and threw it over the fence.

What? Keep the snake?? Yes. It is shy and non venomous. It fills a predatory niche in this ecosystem. If the rat snake supplants the aggressive and poisonous cottonmouths, it is a real win. Maybe awareness of the new cat sheriffs in town will percolate throughout the meadows and forests warning all pests to leave the shop alone! Kipling would be proud.

Don’t look at me, I don’t sharpen my claws on these haunches.

Captive Rainwater

Collecting rainwater from the rooftop has been a goal and this past week marked a significant step forward.

Cotton candy sunsets out here

The front quarter of the rooftop is now guttered. It collects water to flow to the tank.

Utility trailer earning it’s keep

Used tank on craigslist required some cleaning out, fortunately there are helping hands around here.

One it was cleaned, time to run pipes. The vertical pipe is a first flow diverter, the dust off the roof runs off first and is diverted into a drain so the sediment doesn’t get into the tank.

First flow diverter is also a support for the pipe
Screen to block insect intruders

I’m not accustomed to pipe projects being a race against the weather. This day was a race against the thunderstorms, and p it the last pieces together as the rain started. What’s the end result?

Captured rainwater with good pressure from the tank

Training Chickens

Chicks don’t stay chicks. They get bigger. As they get bigger they become more cold tolerant and more aggressive in their hunting and eating capabilities. Here are some adjustments we’ve made.

Rise and shine

It’s time to start moving them outside in increments. Every morning with good weather we put them in the top deck of the mobile chicken home. They are sheltered in here until they are comfortable heading downstairs, and they are also learning that the stairs are actually there.

2020 was the year of the RV, and the chickens are no exception

Once they come down the ramp they have access to water, feed, and most exciting: fresh turf.

You can see the rope on the front and this allows us to easily move the chicken RV to a new patch of grass every day.

What does moving the chicken RV do? First it keeps the birds from hammering down and destroying the grass. Second, while they are on a patch of turf it is being heavily fertilized and aerated. Third, chickens like to scratch and peck and hunt, and every hunter loves new territory to hunt. Fourth, chickens eat plants. The chlorophyll is great for their bodies and new grass is tasty grass.

There’s an unseen secret in here

For now they come back inside at night, that will change next week. Ready to live outside fully when the weather is fully warm.

This week I found a 8in snake dead in the yard. I brought it inside and tossed it to the chickens. After watching the birds lightly peck the serpent for a while I got bored and went away. Then they found their taste for the snake because when I came back it was completely gone, which is where this picture came from. Good work chickens!

Chicken training so far: going down a ramp, drinking water, and eating snake.

Birds yet to Feather

You know those weeknights where you know get some goods at the farm store, you have your kids with you and the chicks are half price after Easter?

Heat Lamp Row

Of course we come home with a dozen chicks. They are full of down and fluff and rapidly transitioning to feathers. I’m excited to get them in the pasture behind the cattle to harvest the fly proteins!

What’s the biggest threat to the birds right now? A curious and energetic toddler that wants to pick them up. So they get a lid and a heat lamp in the laundry room.

Got that One Wrong

Sometimes you take a leap and it works out. Other times you miss the ledge and go tumbling down…like this time.

Craigslist ad has a 5ft rotary cutter for a good price. Looks good , runs great, has ac, ect.

Go pick it up and it’s too wide for my 5.5ft trailer. The good ol boy with the monster tractor tells me it’s called a 5ft cutter because it cuts 5ft, not because the deck is foot.

Nodding agreeably I give him the cash and strap it on the trailer, a bit janky but chipper about the deal and confident it’ll work.

She ain’t going nowhere

Turns out, she’s too big and too heavy by far. It took the wife and I 30 minutes to even unload it from the trailer.

The tractor hydraulics won’t lift her. I asked a friend helped me troubleshoot. “these two spark plugs wires are severed!” So we fix those and it doesn’t help. Check the dipstick “you need more fluid!” So we add more fluid…and no go. Check for hydraulic leaks and there are none.

Ladies and gentlemen, I messed up and bought a heavy piece of equipment. Now I can’t load on anyone else’s trailer. It’s on Craigslist now waiting for someone looking for a deal who can bring their own tractor to pick it up.