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Monthly Archives: April 2014

Oh My Goodness, It’s Working!

I’m so excited!  Knock on wood, so far my newest experiment in backyard farming is WORKING!

If you follow me on Instagram (and you should, @daddystractor) you’ll already know we received an unusual-looking package in the mail yesterday containing baby chicks!  When they arrived we took them downstairs to the brooder and settled them all in with drinks of water and some chick feed.

How I got my broody hens to accept mail-order chicks.

They come in the mail– how crazy is that!

But then last night I got a little crazy. 😉

How I got my broody hens to accept mail-order chicks.

We use this cattle feeder as a brooder. It works for the first few weeks anyway!

We ordered 40 chicks this time around.  25 are “pan-fry” chickens I plan to raise to feed my family.  The other 15 are assorted bantams, destined to be pets for the kiddos.  I said yes to this idea because if you think baby chicks are adorable, well, you have to see a bantam chick.  They are a third the size of a regular chick.  Need I say more?

How I got my broody hen to accept mail-order chicks

They are all so cute, but why is it tiny things are even cuter!!

These bitsy chickens will someday lay tiny eggs, which we don’t really need since my other 28 chickens are laying hens and we currently get almost 2 dozen eggs a day.  So they are basically useless as far as livestock go.  (But again.  So. cute.)

Really they are just here to eat expensive food and take up time and energy.

So I came up with a plan to cut down on the time and energy, if not food.

Two of my laying hens have gone “broody.”  This means they keep setting on eggs, trying to hatch chicks.  Broody hens aren’t great on a farm because they tend to be more likely to peck and they stop laying new eggs in their attempt to hatch the ones they’re sitting on.  Conventional wisdom is to keep a broody hen away from the nesting boxes until she gives up on the idea, OR… get her some chicks to raise!

An experienced mama hen is a pretty amazing animal.  She will sit on her eggs for 21 straight days, getting up just once a day to eat and drink for a few minutes.

However, my hens are not experienced mamas.

Actually… they’re not all that bright either.

I gave a mama hen some eggs to see if she could hatch her own (how fun would that be?!) and she couldn’t keep track of which box was hers.  She’s been sitting on different eggs for almost 4 weeks.

How I got my broody hen to accept mail-order chicks!

The nesting boxes are a busy place!

Which makes my plan of putting bantams under these two chickens unreliable at best.

Last night Brett and I slipped the banties under the two hens–you can handle chickens more easily after they’ve gone to bed.  This morning I got up early to be out there just after the sun popped up and both mamas were sitting on 15 very quiet chicks.

I created a separate space for the new families in the part of the coop designed for storage, giving each mama a milk crate and straw nest on the floor.  (The nesting boxes are on the wall and the babies won’t be able to get in and out to get to food or water.)  I was really nervous about having to move everyone so soon after the introductions, but oh my goodness, it’s working!  As soon as they saw the chicks in the new nests both mamas moved right in and took charge of their little broods.

How I got my broody hens to accept mail-order chicks!

So far, so good! Yay!!

Quick, knock on wood!

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Categories: Animals | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

There’s a Sheep in a Minivan

Actually it’s my sheep, in my minivan.  And while we’re clearing things up, I put her there.

That's a picture of a sheep in a mini van

Not that it was easy to get her in, mind you.  In all fairness, you might say it was pretty difficult.  But it had to be done for two reasons.  The first was a stop at the vet clinic for some gooey medication for her eye, which we think was scratched.

That's a sheep in the back of a mini van

Getting her out was easier. Much easier.

The second was a trip to the farm where Lizzie was born to have her sheared.

A few days ago it was 80* and the poor thing was so uncomfortable with that wool coat!  Of course, two days later it snowed, but warm weather is coming (or so I’m told) and little Lizzie really needed a hair cut.

If you have a large flock you may a trouble finding a qualified “barber” to do the highly specialized job of shearing sheep.  If you have a small flock you WILL have trouble, and if you have one, lone little lamb, well, you’re out of luck.  I knew my best bet was to find a friend who wouldn’t mind throwing my sheep into their group when the shearer came.  Thankfully the family who gave us Lizzie is just the friendly sort who happily help a neighbor out.

They were also the sort to smile indulgently while I stood amazed at the whole thing and took tons of pictures to show you!

There's a sheep in the back of my minivan

She squirmed at first but Lizzie settled down and didn’t put up much fuss once the shearing started.

To begin he set Lizzie on her tail and held her back up like she was sitting up.

There's a sheep in the back of my mini van

Mailman by day, Mark is also a sheep shearer by night!

You can see the cutting shears in Mark’s hand; follow the cord back up to the frame that allows the cord to swing freely but not get tangled around the sheep.  There is an electric switch on the pole that allows him to turn the clippers on and off.  Right under the switch hangs a little device that keeps track of the number of sheep sheared.  A toolbox on the floor holds supplies and all of this sets on a board for the fleece to fall on.

There's a sheep in the back of my mini van!

He started on her front legs and stomach

There's a sheep in the back of my minivan!

then flipped her over to do her back

There's a sheep in the back of my minivan!

and finished with her backside.

It probably took about 10 minutes, start to finish, but I still can’t get over what that 10 minutes did to my fluffy little lamb!

There's a sheep in the back of my minivan!

It won’t take too long for a little wool to start growing again, thank goodness!

Yeah, not her best look.  Pretty sure not even french-tipped nails are going to help this outfit.

We loaded a lighter Lizzie back into the van (it was getting easier now, the third time) and drove my shorn sheep home.  The forecast predicts 80* again by Wednesday and her eye already looks better with the medicine.  I just hope my van makes a full recovery…

Categories: Animals | 5 Comments

Top 10 Spring Planting

The farm is a busy, bustling place in the springtime!  The kids and I keep busy randomly adding critters introducing productive livestock to the backyard pasture and Daddy, well, we’re always glad when Sunday rolls around and we get to see him!  Some of you may be lucky enough to live on a farm and understand the process of planting, but for those of you who would like a clearer picture of how your food is grown, well, maybe this will help!

Top 10 Posts About Spring Planting

Take a virtual tour of the tractor

Take a virtual tour of a modern tractor! {DaddysTractor.com}

 

Read about the technology the modern farmer uses

a modern farmer

 

See the planter be prepped for field work

How is your food grown?

 

How to grow happy plants

A harvested field {DaddysTractor.com}

 

Preparing the fields

There's more to fall than harvest! {DaddysTractor.com}

 

Ride in the tractor, a video of planting

Planting wheat

 

We can even grow sweet corn!

compare and contrast life on a family farm

 

See how growing wheat is different

growing wheat

 

Starting from scratch, preparing a new field

Using the bulldozer to ready fields for spring planting

 

Why we’re so busy in springtime!

planting time on the farm

 

Categories: Science | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

This Situation is Critical!

It’s literally the most important thing that happens on our farm and it’s happening now!  Just ask the little red hen, if you want to eat the bread, first you have to plant the seeds!

Planting time on the farm

Our Case IH tractor pulls a John Deere planter– proof that it can be done! 🙂

Planting time is the most intense season on the farm.  There are an estimated 10 days that are just right for planting corn in our area.  Even if we had perfect conditions (which we won’t) and no break downs (that won’t happen either!) there is no way we could plant all our corn in 10 days.  But we try.

Planting time on the farm

Daddy has added lots of Precision Planting parts to the planter, making sure every seed counts!

During the first two days of our planting season the tractor ran around the clock.  Grandpa traded off with Daddy in the middle of the night so Daddy could get a few hours of sleep.

planting time on the farm

Anna helps Daddy check that the planter is working by digging up a row and looking at the seeds.

It’s also not just putting seeds in the ground that is so time-sensetive.  Daddy got out of bed a the usual time the next morning so Grandpa could put on fertilizer and crop protection products, which are every bit as critical.

planting time on the farm

Daddy drove away with a piece of pizza in hand– no time to stop for dinner!

Monsoon-like rains put an end to our field work late Saturday night and this morning there is snow on the ground.  Like I said, we won’t be getting ideal weather!  The weather man says we should be in the mid 60s again in two days with lots of wind as well, so the ground will dry out and we’ll be back in the fields.  While not ideal by any means, the snow shouldn’t stop the seeds from growing once the weather warms up.

Just please weather, do warm up!

Categories: Family, Technology | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

My Journey for the Perfect Homeschool Curriculum

Be still my beating heart- our homeschool curriculum for next year has arrived!  As a mom, foster parent, and former kindergarten teacher you can be sure I have opinions on education–  if you’re not homeschooling, hang in there, I have opinions on games and toys too. 🙂  My first year homeschooling I created my own stuff.  I have a degree in early childhood, I’d taught kindergarten, and I was pretty confident I could handle it.  Yes, you may all laugh.

My Journey to find the perfect homeschool curriculum.

Mommy wasn’t the only one with a happy smile when our order came!

We had a great kindergarten year, but honestly first grade needed structure.  But oh my, there is SO MUCH stuff!  You can school online, or just on the computer with CDs, or you can read aloud to your kids all day, or you can give them workbooks, or you can sit down and cry because of all the overwhelming decisions.

I don’t want to know how many countless hours I spent researching just the right program.  What I do know is after filling most of a notebook and downing three quarters of a bottle of tylenol over a two-month period I had pretty much decided to use a different company for each subject to get the critical thinking, phonics foundation, hands-on approach I was looking for.

And then I found Timberdoodle.

My Journey to find the perfect homeschool curriculum.

A friend reviewed their Block Builders set on her blog.  I clicked around for a while until I found their first-grade core curriculum.

It had everything I’d already picked out for my son.

My Journey to find the perfect homeschool curriculum.

It was tempting to bang my head against the desk in frustration of all the wasted hours, but I was too thrilled to be angry.  In addition to the math, reading, history, and science they also had fantastic extras.  The Block Builders, but also mazes for building fine motor skills and games for memory retention.  I ordered Thinking Putty for my kinesthetic learning to use while listening and beautiful books of illustrated history.  I added writing and geography, which I hadn’t planned but have been favorites all year.

I ordered Christmas presents, Easter gifts and birthday surprises for my kids, niece, and nephews.  We had a great first grade year and I can’t stop looking at the pile of stuff for second grade!  I even ordered most of the kindergarten kit for Anna.

I’m not on their blogging team and can’t be till I can secure 26 more followers (if you can help with that…), so this really is just my opinion.  I’m sharing because if you order a core curriculum before April 15th you get a free Boogie Board, which I never would have spent money on but here’s the pic of us about two seconds after we opened our box.

My Journey to find the perfect homeschool curriculum.

Boogie Boards were the first things to come out of the box and held the kids’ attention well enough I slipped the Easter gifts out and they never knew!

So I just wanted to share, in case anyone is questioning the millions of choices for the perfect homeschool curriculum.  Order from Timberdoodle.

Categories: Family, Homeschool | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Why We Are Using a Bulldozer for Spring Planting

Tractors, planters, sprayers– all equipment you might think about using when spring rolls around.  But this year we have been putting a lot of hours on Grandpa’s bulldozer in order to get ready for spring planting.

The field just across from our house was pulled from a government program called CRP and the owner wanted to rent it out for the first time in 20 years.  (The CRP program was started years ago as a way for farmers to allow poor production land to rest.)  It was mostly great news for us.  It meant more land that is very close by and a landlord we enjoy working with.  You can imagine the downside if you think of trying to use anything that has been left alone for 20 years!

The field looked like this, all 200 acres of it.

DSC_0125

Using the bulldozer to ready a field for spring planting

So much brush everywhere!

It has been no easy task to get it ready for spring planting!

The landowner used a mower to cut down the small trees.  Cory used the skid steer to pull out the larger brush and Grandpa has been handling the largest obstacles with the bulldozer.  Wayne used the custom cultivator to pick up stray sticks and then whoever is free has been using the tractor and disk to cut up the stalks so the planter and later the combine won’t run into anything capable of tearing it up!

Daddy made a custom cultivator to pick up brush

Daddy and the guys made this custom cultivator last year to pick up brush. The prongs are close together and all along the back bar instead of spaced throughout. You can see how it catches sticks!

Using the skid steer to ready the fields for spring planting

The skid steer can pull small brush and pick up the piles. Because the attachment on the front is shaped like claws the skid steer can shake the dirt from the piles, leaving more soil on the field.

Using the bulldozer to ready fields for spring planting

The dozer knocks down the larger brush and then pushes it into piles

Using the bulldozer to ready the field for spring planting

When the disk comes through it chops up the ground into big chunks, hopefully getting rid of pointy stalks!

Using the bulldozer to ready the field for spring planting

Last the harrow smooths up the dirt, leaving a happy field ready for bean seeds!

The field looks quite different from those first brush pictures, wouldn’t you agree!

You may remember from previous posts that, while this field looks picture perfect its not how we usually farm.  The loose soil can easily wash away leaving our fields without the necessary top soil to grow good crops, plus polluting nearby streams.

Grandpa also added to the farm this year, buying the field across from his house.

Using a bulldozer to ready the field for spring planting

This field connects all four farms, Grandpa’s home, this new farm, our new rental, and the field our house sits on. What a difference in how it looks!

This farm will not be worked at all.  It’s been cow ground for years but we won’t be tearing up the grass or anything.  Instead we’ll simply plant beans directly into the sod.  The first year won’t likely be a great one, but taking care of the soil will have more benefits in the long run.

Because really, we’d rather not be using a bulldozer to get ready for spring planting!

Categories: Science | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Why I Gave My Goat a Pedicure

My goat is currently styling the latest in white painted hooves and my lamb is showing off a french manicure.  I’d like to tell you it’s because I follow all the current fashions, or maybe because I’m using some great home remedy to protect against disease or something.  But actually it all has to do with the black mold in the bathroom.

Why I gave my goat a pedicure.

This color really goes with her outfit.

Our back bathroom has been disintegrating since the mid 60s, so the surprise was from the shock of actually falling when the shower tiles I was leaning against collapsed into the wall.  This led to the discovery of black mold behind the tiles and the complete destruction of that bathroom.  After much sanding, scrubbing, and bleaching we began replacing everything from the wall studs on out.  We put in a new shower, flooring and tile, added wiring for more outlets, and put up bead board.

Why I gave my goat a pedicure

The finished result!

We picked bead board that needed painting.

Yup, wait for it, it’s coming.

On one of the rare, few days that has felt like spring my mom and sister came over to fly kites with the kids.  There was lots of going in and out of the doors with Fanny, Harriet, and Lizzie leaping for joy to have company in the yard.  My mom and I were talking in the front yard when Brett came bursting out of the house to tell us all three animals were inside!

Why I gave my goat a pedicure.

Don’t let that innocent face fool you.

We followed Brett through wide open garage and back entry doors, to find Lizzie the lamb standing on my newly tiled bathroom floor, front hooves in the still-wet paint tray.  Of course as soon as she saw me Lizzie jumped up from her half-finished spa day, scattering newspaper in all directions.

I managed to get ahold of her collar, but this “little” lamb weighs close to what I do.  The best I can do is to pull her as quickly as I can off the back entry and out into the garage and slam the door behind her.

The goats were nowhere in sight, but I finally discovered them at the other end of the house by the bedrooms. They, too, were rather skittish so it didn’t take much to convince them to move.

Why I gave my goat a pedicure

She thinks she’s cute.

Moving in the right direction was a different story.  First we ran the circle that is the office and living room.  Next mom and I had to take opposite sides of the island to get them back to the entryway, and then, if you can believe it, we hearded them right into the closed back door and on into the bathroom!  Fanny managed to avoid the paint tray but Harriet not only stepped both front feet into the deepest part, she also skidded enough to slosh paint all the way up her hooves, completely covering both of them in primer.

Why I gave my goat a pedicure

She did such a nice job. I always think its harder to paint the right hand…

Thankfully Harriet is smallest of the three animals and I was able to pick up her front end and walk her to the re-opened back door and deposit her in the garage before running for a rag.

Fortunatly, all’s well that ends well and the back bathroom as well as the animals are all fine.

But the garage will never be the same again.

Why I gave my goat a pedicure

Categories: Animals | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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