MIDNIGHT MARAUDER STRIKES AGAIN

May 16, 2011

Monday

Linda

This morning with eyes still glazed from sleep, I pulled back the window curtain and saw that the midnight marauder had struck once again. The suet cage door hung open on the side of the bird feeder. He didn’t rip it off this time, but I am sure he was disappointed when he saw there were no sweet suet cakes or black oil sunflower seeds to snack on. He pulled the hummingbird feeder off its hook and threw it on the ground when he was finished with it. I don’t believe there was much if anything in it either.

I could not believe that in all this mud around here he left no tracks. There were some indentations in the flower bed where the hummingbird feeder hung, but nothing distinguishable. I filled a bucket with pig feed and loaded it into the bed of the RTV (I love that thing). It was nice not to have to trudge all the way back to the pig pen wading through muddy clay and risk loosing one of my wellies boots along the way.

When I pulled up to the pig pen I could see that the bear had been upset that there were no treats left out for him earlier. He must have smelled the feed that the piglets had not finished the day before. When we put the chicken wire around the bottom of the fence we put it along the inside except for where the feed and water bins are located. We put it on the outside of the pen there because we already had the feed bins anchored down in place and they blocked the fence inside. Well, he peeled that chicken wire back like a ripe banana skin and stuck his big old paw through the openings of the cattle fence to get to the feed trough. I could see smears on the bottom of pan where he had scooped up some of the feed with his paw. He was a gentleman though and didn’t eat all of the piglets food.

Our plan to deter this nightly thief is to not have any food available. The bird feeder and hummingbird feeders will remain empty and any food left in the pig trough will have to be scooped out at night. I hung one of Sonny’s dirty work shirts on the fence hoping that the scent of a human might keep him at bay. I also brushed Ruby and placed the wads of hair around the fence base near the feed troughs. Lets hope he moves on because if not other drastic measures will have to taken. This drive through window is closed.

The marauders handiwork.


A PIGLET OR TWO OR THREE OR FOUR

May 15, 2011

Sunday

Linda

The past few days have been a whirlwind of activity getting prepared for the arrival of our new piglets. Friday morning John and Carol came over for coffee and to discuss how we were going to transport our piglets to PHF. We found out on Thursday morning that they would be ready for pick up at about noon on Saturday. Sitting on the porch around the Plastic Round Table where we often hatch out our ideas, we all agreed that the piglets would fit in two large dog kennels. Each of the three piglets weighs approximately fifty pounds. John’s extended cab Ford pickup,(Big Red) would be the shinning steed that would convey us down many country roads to the land of pink piglets.

We still had  a few more things to purchase for the piglets new home so Sonny and I went on a quest in the early afternoon to find them. First we stopped at Tyler feed to stock up on pig food, then off to the Pennsboro Ace Hardware for a 45 gallon trash can to store the feed, buckets, chicken wire to reinforce the bottom of the fence and a galvanized oval tub for water. We made one more unplanned stop before going home. Parcs Kubota. The RTV’s dressed in sultry orange had caught Sonny’s eye and they lured him in with their Sirens song. I didn’t have any blinders… I wasn’t quick enough to put my hands over his ears… he was lost to them. We came home that night with a 3 year old 900 diesel model with a hydraulic dump bed.  It isn’t new, but it is in great shape. In all seriousness it will be and already has been in the past few days a work horse for the farm.

Farm Workhorse.

Saturday we got up at 5 AM so we could be at John and Carols by 6:30. We all wanted to go to the flea market before picking up the piglets. It is pretty much an every Saturday ritual and something I look forward to. We don’t always find something we want but it is fun to look at all the wares for sale. After a much needed cup of coffee and breakfast at McDonalds we hopped back into Big Red and started our hour and half journey to the pig farm.

The pig farm was much nicer than I expected. All the pigs were kept in nice quarters and there wasn’t what you would call a bad pig odor. The daddy of these piglets is a humongous boar. I have never seen such a huge pig. He must be eight feet long and close to 900 pounds. He was all muscle, not sloppy fat. If a pig could be called handsome I guess you could say he was top of the line. Our piglets looked healthy and playfully romped around their pen until the farmer went to catch them, then the high pitched blood curdling squeals ensued.

We're going to Pot Hole Farm.

We ended up with four pigs instead of just three. John and Carol bought the runt that was born with the litter for half price. He really isn’t that much of a runt. We were able to put all four in one dog cage and covered the top with a tarp to keep the rain or sun if we had any off of them. By the time we got them to PHF they were all asleep.

We still had to finish putting up the chicken wire around the bottom of the fence and also some shorter T-post in between the taller ones. We did this to keep them from being able to root under or push the fence out. We put in the new feed  and water troughs then let the piglets loose inside. They immediately loved their new home. Cork screw tails were stretched out straight and wagging like a dog. I know there were smiles under those pig snouts. The pink skinned piglets frolicked around the green grass and tasted its sweetness. It won’t take them long to finish off the grass and make the pen a mud pit. Right now they are little eating machines, soon to be huge eating machines. The runt? Well he stands in the food trough making sure he gets his share and won’t let the others run him out. He will be a bruiser before long.

Happy Piglets.

This morning John and Carol came by with nose rings and clamper for the piglets nose. Since they are in pasture we needed to ring their noses to keep them from over rooting. It amazes me how tough a pigs nose is. These little guys had rooted up heavy bush roots and stumps since last night. They are like mini bull dozers. I have to say we all did a good job catching these willie rascals and holding them still for their nose jewelry. I think they screamed more from being captured than having their noses pierced. The moment we put them down the squeals stopped and they were back to normal as if a switch had been turned off. I hope these guys do well out here and enjoy their time. We hope to give them a good pigs life with room to play, plenty of food, warm shelter and humane treatment.

I’m not sure how I will react when its time to send them for processing. I will be the one who spends the most time taking care of them although I will not make them pets. I already told Sonny that its up to him and John to take them when the time comes. Its a part of farm life that is may be hard for me since I’m an animal lover, but I will be grateful for the meat and I will enjoy all the hams, chops and bacon. They will be treated far better than commercial swine. I’m not really sure what other purpose a pig has in the world other than food. They certainly weren’t put on earth for their good looks. I think I that I have farmer potential. I actually looked at one of my chickens the other day and the idea of roast chicken crossed my mind without a flinch. Maybe I wont be too upset at all when the pigs go to market.


ANOTHER FARM TOY

May 13, 2011

Kubota RTV 900


WILD AND WONDERFUL PHF

May 12, 2011

Thursday

Linda

Pot Hole Farm is surrounded by a plethora of wildlife. Some we are aware of and can see in the open, others are hidden or only come out at night. During the day you can hear an assortment of bird songs echoing through the hills. You may get a glimpse of bright color as they fly from tree to tree or stop by the feeder for a snack. Each has their own distinct sound and if you listen closely  you can pick them out individually…Robin, Bluebird, Cardinal, and Red Winged Black Bird to name a few. But if you allow the songs to blur together they form a new song, a beautiful chorus of sound that only nature can produce.

High in the sky you can see the hawk as it floats on the wind currents shrieking out a warning to the scurrying chipmunks and birds that its looking for a meal. You can hear the sharp chirp of the chipmunks as they scamper through the rocks and brush, their cheek pouches full of needed supplies. The lanky grey heron patiently waits by the creek for some minnows. As dusk turns the blue sky pink with the setting sun you might see a group of deer run down the hillside headed toward the lush pasture that lays on the other side of the gravel road. A wild turkey hen gobbles calling in her young. These are the wild creatures we can see, but there are others that are more inconspicuous and only visit in the cover of darkness.

The day is ending and PHF is settling down, but the night life is just beginning for others. The Whipper Will winds itself up, frantically repeating the same phrase as though its had too many cups of coffee. The frogs pile together down at the creekside for a bug and slime party, and a rowdy round of froggy karaoke. On rare occasions the eerie howl of coyotes bounces off the hills down into valley, sending cold shivers up your spine. The hoot owl up in a Sycamore tree hollers to its relative across the way.

In the morning if you take a stroll around the farm there is evidence of night time visitors. Down by the creek the tracks of a raccoon can be seen or those of an opossum. For two years we have had a marauder that empties the bird feeder and rips open the suet basket leaving it discarded on the ground. Evidence was never left behind except the broken feeders. We had suspects but never proof. Was it a fat raccoon? Could it actually have been a bear? Well the perp got sloppy last night and left a foot print. Detective that I am I was hot on the trail and took photos. Here is the evidence, you decide.

Exhibit 1 Broken bird feeder with suet cage ripped off.

Raccoon prints down by the creek. Trying to wash away evidence?

Bear print heading out of the driveway. Hmmm. This would be my guess.


ONIONS, GARDEN HATS AND CHICKS

May 11, 2011

Wednesday

Linda

Yesterday when I went to town I looked for some onion sets to buy. Of course I am always a day late and missed the rush on onions ( I can just picture frenzied gardeners with shopping carts pushing each other like a roller derby match toward the onion set display). I did manage to find a mixed bag of onion sets hidden in a corner containing twenty each of red, yellow and white bulbs. It must have been bumped out when two carts clashed during the onion derby and rolled to a corner to seek safety. Our victory. We may as well have an assortment of onions. The red onions are great for grilled shish ke-bobs.

My first order of business this morning was to get the onions planted. I also planted my yellow straight necked squash plants I picked up yesterday from Lowes. Since the greenhouse catastrophe nixed starting any zucchini plants early I went ahead and made three hills and put four seeds in each.

Walking through Tractor Supply yesterday I found a nice straw garden hat that fit just right. The straw is woven in a pretty pattern on the crown to give my hot head some ventilation and it has a string tie so it doesn’t blow off in a strong breeze. The brim is big enough to keep the sun off my neck, but not so big like some hats that can shade the person next to you too. I wore it today while I was working in the garden and I have to say I give it an A+ for comfort.

Ready for work and stylish too.

The little chicks are starting to become more comfortable in their surroundings. Today they ventured out into the coop pen for the first time. It started off with one brave barred rock that tentatively peeked out of the open hatch and then stepped out onto the ramp. She cautiously put one dainty foot in front of the other and went slightly further out until she caught sight of a bug and threw caution to the wind to catch it. The rest of the teenybopper flock soon followed and the bug games began. Soon they will take an even bigger step and blend in with the older flock off to explore the wonders of PHF.

Get ready, get set, GO!

Whose There? Where did it go?


I MIGHT AS WELL SHOP

May 10, 2011

Tuesday

Linda

Monday is usually my day to do my weekly shopping. We live about an hour away from the town of Bridgeport which is our shopping hub for the large box stores and also any needed doctors office visits. I happened to have an appointment this morning so instead of making two trips to town this week I held off until today to run all of my errands.

I loaded a cooler into the back of the Dirt Mobile last night so I wouldn’t forget to take it, (its happened before).  Today’s temperatures were in the high seventies and refrigerator groceries won’t last long in a hot car. There are a hundred projects that need to be done here at PHF especially while there is good weather, but sometimes you don’t get a choice in the matter.

By the time I left town in the late afternoon the Dirt Mobile was laden down with twenty pound bags of dog and cat food, squash plants, a raspberry bush, fencing, groceries and a tank full of expensive diesel fuel. It felt good to finally get off my feet and settle behind the steering wheel, a frosty Starbucks Mocha Frappe with extra coffee sitting in the mug holder beside me. Shopping can be exhausting you know, especially for a farm girl who would rather be getting her garden planted.

Waiting to be planted.

I did manage to find time to weed and work up the soil around one of the Hydrangea bushes my sister and I planted last spring. I bought a pretty fence to put around it today and I was anxious to get it in place. The soil in the flower bed was so hard it was like trying to hoe up a concrete slab but, I was able to loosen it up with some muscle and determination. That Starbucks Frappe must have given me some extra umph. I think  some mulch is definitely needed to keep the soil moist. I’ll have to jot that down on the next shopping list.

Pretty fence.


POTATO PALUZA

May 9, 2011

Monday

Linda

Its after 8pm. The little chicks have been fed and watered and now that their tummies are full they snuggle together on a bed of sweet straw. The adults have retired to the comfort of their roost. The chicken coop door has been closed and locked tight to keep out the monsters that lurk in the night searching for a chicken snack. All is peaceful and quiet in the coop except for an occasional snore from the direction of his majesty Roo Roo Rooster. The hens snuggle close to one another and their plump breasts rise and fall as they float on the feathery wisps of chicken slumber.  The guineas have been given a dinner of scratch corn which they thoroughly enjoyed before retiring to their roosts under the pole barn eaves. My own eyes are heavy and I crave the comfort of my bed, but first I must tell you about the activities of the day on Pot Hole Farm.

My day started early. The sun was up and the sky was painted corn flower blue. My plan was to start planting the potatoes immediately after breakfast but as most plans go it was changed. Instead Ruby and I took a trip to the Salem IGA grocery store to buy some small grit for the chicks. They have started to eat a little scratch and the adult grit would be too large for their crops to handle. I read in my chicken book that if you can’t get the chick grit you can use small bird grit for cockatiels and such. As soon as we got home I decided to do a couple of loads of laundry. You can’t waste sunny days when living off grid. By that time that was finished, it was lunch time.

The rest of the afternoon was spent marking rows in cloddy dirt and digging holes to plant the cut potato starts. I planted four rows with about seventeen potatoes to each row. If we don’t get a few potatoes out of that I don’t know what to do. Unfortunately this part of the garden was added on just the other day specifically for these potatoes. I didn’t plan on planting any this year because they didn’t do well last year. This soil didn’t get the healthy dose of donkey manure like the rest of garden so it is a gamble on how well they will grow.

The sun was hot even though it was in the mid seventies. Proper attire is crucial when working outdoors. A t-shirt, capris, garden shoes, and Sonny’s Panama straw hat fit the bill, but the shade of a golf umbrella keeps you in the cool. I know this ensemble would not be seen in a Macy’s window but this is farm fashion. Dirt is considered makeup.

I’m not as spry as I used to be so there were frequent breaks to stretch out the kinks and enjoy a cold glass of water on the porch swing. The cabbage plants looked healthy and the lettuce and radishes are sprouting up. The hot sun had dried the soil so I gave the potatoes, green beans, lettuce, cabbage and strawberries a good drink. With the little energy I had left I weeded the flower beds. Not a good job but they look some better.

Well, the chickens and guineas are in bed, the cat and dog are sleeping and the all the potatoes are snug in their rows. Now its my turn to crawl under the covers and lay my head on a soft pillow. It’s time to put chores and lists of chores on the back burner and let the waves of sleep carry me out to the sea of happy dreams. Good night.


MAY GOINGS ON

May 8, 2011

Sunday

Linda

Wow, it’s hard to believe that we are already in the month of May and even harder to realize how long its been since my last blog entry. I have no excuses. Since the rain for the past weeks has put a damper on doing outside projects I have been spending my time doing a little Spring cleaning in the house. The walls and cabinets have been scrubbed clean of the winter wood stove residue and the glass of the inside windows is now gleaming. I washed the sofa slip covers and hung up Springtime fresh curtains. Now that those chores are completed I can spend most of my time outdoors where I really want to be.

There are so many projects that need attention here at PHF that sometimes its overwhelming. Sonny and I sat down and made a list of everything trying to organize it by priority. Not an easy task because it all seems to be a priority but as they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

Sonny took a weeks vacation this past week so that we could finish up the drain ditches, the wood shed addition, work on the garden, finish up the hog pen fence and about a thousand other things. Of course it rained the first part of the week and then he had a little mishap.

We had taken Festus, (Johns Truck) to Southern States Supply to get a couple of propane bottles filled. The tanks were filled and Sonny started to climb off the back of the truck when his heel got caught on the edge of the tow hitch. He fell like a sack of potatoes onto the asphalt and injured his right shoulder. I took him to the Urgent Care and the X-rays didn’t show any fractures, but his shoulder is still extremely painful if he tries to lift his arm too high. He will get a follow up done this week.

Sonny tried to get some things done, but trying to use a shovel or put the metal roof on the wood shed extension was out of the question, so was putting the green house back together. I am just grateful he didn’t break his neck.

We have four new additions to PHF. Yesterday we went to Two Lynnes Farm and came home with three Barred Rock hens and an Americana/ Cochin mixed hen. They are about eight weeks old and as cute as be. I can’t wait to see them tootling behind the rest of the flock but that will have to wait a few weeks. I promise to post pictures later. We also came home with some cabbage and brussels sprouts seedlings and two pint jars of Two Lynnes Farm Maple syrup. Can’t wait to try that!

My day has been a busy one. It seems as though it has taken me forever to put up the chicken wire around the bottom of the garden fence. The chickens weren’t free ranging last year but now they hop in and out of the large square openings of the cattle fencing like its a hop scotch game.

My fingers are soar from wire tying the chicken wire to the existing fence and let me tell you those raw, sharp ends of the fence can poke too. Wearing gloves just gets in the way so I will suffer the consequences of not wearing them. Now that the chickens can’t get into the garden I went ahead and planted the cabbage plants and two rows of Strike beans. Our friend Gary gave us some potato starts and I cut them in half so I can plant them tomorrow.

My fingers are soar and my hands are scratched, my back aches and my muscles scream but I feel good. I finally finished a job that needed to be done and the garden has its first plantings. We have four more beautiful hens that will give us eggs in a few months and it is a good feeling to know that we can feed ourselves. Well as long as the garden grows.


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