Reasons to Build a Chicken Tractor

Reasons to Build a Chicken Tractor

When thinking about tractors, one usually pictures a metal rectangle and seat on wheels painted green or red or blue. This tractor provides several hundred horsepower units for working out in agricultural fields.

I recently learned about another type of tractor that uses animals rather than metal implements to improve the ground. I was intrigued to hear about its benefits for rotational grazing systems. Continue reading “Reasons to Build a Chicken Tractor”

First Day of Haying

First Day of Haying

We finally put hay up for the first time this year earlier this week. Rain had delayed the operation for a while. Most were round bales. Two rows of alfalfa became square bales for the horses.

The next morning, early, rain came. Storm clouds stayed for a while.

Sunrise brought rays and shadows of bales, and I stood outside the barn gaping at the sight for a few minutes before sense finally said, “Go get your camera!”

Standing on the bales, I played with the light, snapping before the gold changed to dull yellow with no shadows. Sometimes, the colors changed so quickly I could see the progression in photos shot just seconds apart. Continue reading “First Day of Haying”

Calves in the Pasture

Calves in the Pasture

It was finally warm enough to take the doors off of the Ranger.

They’d been on the ATV for six months, having been hung on their hinges as soon as the wind started to bite. Every time in May I considered taking the doors off, the temperatures would drop.

Finally, the 80s showed up, and I swung the doors off the hinges and laid them in the garage for a (hopefully) six-month break.

This is usually a sign of summer.

For a few days after removing the doors, temperatures dropped again, and I wondered if I’d jumped the gun. It’s been wet and rainy and cold this spring, preventing crop producers from entering their fields to plant their corn or soybeans. The five-year average amount of Indiana corn planted at this time is 73%. Right now, we only have 14%. This has made for stressful times for many farmers.

Because we focus on livestock and hay, we have not had these same travails. However, we have been working in a lot of mud and wet conditions while feeding the livestock, and work on a chicken tractor (a movable coop that will allow the chickens to forage while being protected from predators) has been delayed several times. The up-and-down temperatures have been tough, as well. 

As of late, though, there have been good photo opportunities. Calfie has started eating Big Calf feed, along with her milk.

Calf eating grain in feeder.

Continue reading “Calves in the Pasture”

Kittens

Kittens

We discovered new kittens up in the hay loft a little more than a month ago.

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We like cuddling…

For a while, they lived in a tunnel in the hay bales, eyes barely open, piled one on top of the other, mewing quietly.

Kittens in Haybales
Hello, kittens!

Continue reading “Kittens”

Stars to a Golden Hour

Stars to a Golden Hour

The stars surprised me when I swung open the back door and stood in its frame Monday morning. They were there. They hadn’t been there Sunday night, hidden by clouds during my five-minute walk through the crisp, clear air in an attempt to shake the stir-crazy of being snowed in for two days. But they were here now, some drowned out by the security light. I walked in the shadow of the smokehouse to greet them properly, the Big Dipper most prominent.

“I didn’t see the Big Dipper for a year — more than a year,” I said to no one in particular. “Isn’t that crazy?”

Fog accompanied my drive to the farm. I slammed the truck door shut to reveal stars unveiled by human light, a planet in the east the brightest of all. Red tinges peeked over the trees, the rest of the world silver and silhouettes, silver snow blending into silver mist blending into dark tree tops. Fence posts stretched and disappeared into the fog. Horses trotted through the snow toward me, gentle thuds of hooves the size of dinner plates against the powder. Ice had created a wild hairstyle for them, bangs frozen arced up, stray strands rigid in every direction. Noses pointed toward me. Continue reading “Stars to a Golden Hour”

I Moved, Christmas Music, and Philosophical Questions

I Moved, Christmas Music, and Philosophical Questions

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October sunset.

Blogging, oh blogging. Why have I neglected you for so long? 

Actually, I can answer that pretty easily: I moved.

For a little while, I lived in a town north of here, and it took 15 minutes to get to the farm. That doesn’t sound like much for any other job commute, but for the way I like to work, it was a lot of driving. I’d go to chores, go home, eat breakfast, go work on the farm again, go home. Most days, I’d just pack up everything I needed and worked online at my parents’ house. (I stayed disconnected at my old house.)

But then, a house opened up close to my family and the farm, so I moved back down here.

And I got Internet. Continue reading “I Moved, Christmas Music, and Philosophical Questions”

“If We Want to Save the Land, We Must Save the People”: Wendell Berry and Uplifting Rural Communities

“If We Want to Save the Land, We Must Save the People”: Wendell Berry and Uplifting Rural Communities

Continued from “Thoughts on Letters to a Young Farmer: Addressing Common Assumptions About Agriculture and Farming.” 

The essay by Wendell Berry had been written as a 2013 speech to the organization Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and reprinted in one of his books of essays two years later. The speech was then reprinted in the book Letters to a Young Farmer: On Food, Farming, and Our Future, where I discovered the words.

Berry is a Kentuckian whose writing can apply to rural areas across the United States. His writing is filled with advocacy for the farmer, the profession of farming, rural communities, and nature. I hadn’t read many of his essays before this, as I had trouble getting through them — not because the writing was difficult, but because I kept saying, “Yes!” to much of what he said and wanted to write it all down for future reference. I would begin scratching lines until I discovered I was about to copy an entire 20-page essay.

One reason Berry’s writing resonates so well is his frequent discussion on the connectedness of people and the land:

“…we must not speak or think of the land alone or of the people alone, but always and only of both together. If we want to save the land, we must save the people who belong to the land. If we want to save the people, we must save the land the people belong to….All of us who are living owe our lives directly to our connection to the land. I am not talking about the connection that is implied by such a term as ‘environmentalism.’ I am talking about the connection that we make economically, by work, by living, by making a living. This connection, as we see every day, is going to be either familiar, affectionate, and saving, or distant, uncaring, and destructive.” (p. 96)

Continue reading ““If We Want to Save the Land, We Must Save the People”: Wendell Berry and Uplifting Rural Communities”

A Subdued Weekend on the Farm

Chicks
For three weeks, three glorious weeks, I was back in the livestock business. My sister-in-law gave me six Australorp chicks her first grade class had hatched out. I housed them in a barrel with a heat lamp, and when they outgrew that, I connected an old dog crate covered in chicken wire to the barrel. I read “Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens.” I talked to the feed mill. I emailed poultry producers. I thought I was doing everything right. Continue reading “A Subdued Weekend on the Farm”