Life of a Farm Blog

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Cool Easter

I gotta say this has been a pretty cool Easter! Yeah the temps dropped down into the 20s here last night with a very thick frost. I bet there won’t be many flowers after this cold spell. The coolest thing about this Easter has been hanging out with the kids. We’ve been side by side since Friday morning. Saturday evening we took a trip down into the Big South Fork River and Recreation Area to the old coal mining town of Blue Heron. Since the temps were so cool we had the place all to ourselves. The kids climbed all over the the old mining equipment and railcars. I’m a big history buff and I hope that I will be able to teach the children about the heritage of this area. Sometimes I think I missed my calling not being a teacher. My grandmother, great uncle Norman, and several of my aunts and uncles were or are teachers. To me, my uncle Ralph has the coolest job of all. He is an Ag teacher at Perry County Central here in Ky.

The cold temps meant we had to take a few hours and cover our vegetables that are already out. It probably wouldn’t hurt what we have out, but just in case we took plastic from bad or leftover rolls I’ve brought home from kingsford and covered them. We’ve got an appointment for our pigs and beef to be slaughtered on April 23rd. I guess I need to go ahead and start shopping for another freezer.

Today we are going to a cookout at our neighbors, the Phillips’. Joe and Becky are foster parents and along the way have adopted 6 kids. Joe helps me a lot in the summer with the hay, fertilizer, and keeping everything going. Every year the Phillips’ raise a huge garden and several beef and hogs. They preserve a lot too. When my bunch starts complaining about working in the garden I just remind them that we aren’t growing nearly as much as the neighbors.

The storms that moved through the other night brought lots of straight line winds, lightning, and rain. One of our trees was blown down across the road. My summer goat shelter that I had made out of livestock panels and a tarp became a kite. Luckily the fence caught it before it could go far enough to do any damage. Some of the neighbors didn’t fare so well. I saw a couple of damaged roofs and one neighbor’s shed blown down.

The poultry house venture is still a nightmare. If I put the best bids I’ve gotten all together I’m going to be about $60,000 over projected costs. Add to that I have never seen work done by some of these contractors and I’m scared to death. If I used contractors that I know and trust I’m looking at closer to $80,000 over projection. Just the construction overrun would be enough to finance my dream of making this place into a pumpkin patch. I’ve been waiting on bids from 2 companies that will be for a “turn-key” project. If they add anything at all for bonding the job and sub contracting out any of the work I’ll be $100,000 over projection or roughly 15%. Throw in there the $20k it’s going to cost to have access by county road and we’re at $825,000 not $691,00. This deal is getting crazier by the day.

I’m ashamed to say I haven’t gotten around to servicing the 6000 or spreading the fertilizer I bought last week. I don’t know if it’s the cold or just wanting to hang out with the kids, but I just didn’t have the drive this week I usually have. Well I better go and get to doing something………Be sure to check out the pics I’ve added to the site.

6 Responses to “Cool Easter”

  1. K.C. Says:

    Joel, guess you didn’t read my post on the “For Sale” thread or didn’t care to respond. I really could care less if anyone ever responds to anything I post gratification, is not my intention. Looks as if your going with the commercial poultry thing. I wish you luck I think you ought to take heed of what Hillbilly-Willy posted same thread seems the man has seen both ends of the stick unless, you’ve realized something contrary since.

    The only reason I’m posting as you stated before you knew a contractor to build the chicken barns and you’d be able to save. Point being I know 2 brothers that had worked with me when we had worked for Sand Livestock’s out of Columbus NE. One had worked with me on the tyson project in 1978. I quit the company in 82 these guys ran their own projects from the ground up and I think they worked for Sand’s for about 8-10 yr each. They also had done a couple of projects for ?Hog Slats? the last being in Texas I think in 95.

    Man I just hate seeing someone going that deep in debt. That’s a big stake putting your farm on the line. I’m assuming tyson/cobb will buy your product if you build to their spec? Hope you have a contract for a few yrs but hey they have the money and lawyers to pull rank on you and the rug out from under you anytime they like. And with the teetering economic look, good luck. With every bull ride there’s always a bear that follows, and vice versa, history has shown. The big boys always know, the little guy never sees it coming.

    I’m no expert but have seen alot of companies fold quick for starting out to big or putting it all on the line. As the experts say diversify that portfolio. Here’s my opinion/scenarios take it for what it’s worth, you won’t hurt my feelings, just trying to help. #1 start out small you can always upgrade to bigger and better #2 think about “organic”/free range in starting out small 2-4 acres, USDA organic or whole foods stamped does not mean squat regulations have been rolled back/relaxed, organic is growing exponentially in demand even restaurant’s, eggs also.

    Now about those 2 brothers I’m not trying to sell you on them at all but they do know what there doing. As a matter of fact on a personal basis we’ve had a falling out over 2 yr ago. Even tho we have disagreements I’ve always tried to draw the line between work and pleasure. Most people can’t we’ve know each other for 30yrs. If I can help them I will I don’t hold grudges to close. That’s neither here or now. Here’s the idea/opportunity I’m suggesting. #1 On the commercial bldg., they might need the work last I heard they were building houses for a contractor in Paducah Ky. they would probably be cheaper than most on the labor. #2 On the smaller scale do your own thing as far as a design they should rem. plenty and you’d have to look into infringing on copy rights patents etc. If you wanted to start a free range type thing I’m sure these guys could come up with something or buy some plans and as someone had posted build your buildings to be able to renovate with ease/accommodate for hogs or goats should something happen. I’ve learned not to put all my eggs in one basket(pun intended) in other words have 2 or 3 options and/or outs. I’m sure you’ve talked to your folks, kin and friends on this, sounds as if you have the support.

    One more thing about those 2 brothers and doing something on your own on a smaller scale (trial and error) and avoiding the farm as collateral and 800g’s in debt. When we were building fully contained hog parlors all we had was a trencher seems are pits weren’t more than 4ft high. We trenched the perimeter put in plastic pored the concrete and laid in reinforcement. Then dug out the pit with a 450 tracked Cat. Whether you build your own trusses or buy you might have to rent a cherry picker unless they provide one. Point being these boys use to have all the tools(pwr trowel transit etc) necessary except for the heavy equipment. If you bought a used Cat or trencher and the tools to get by then you would own them out right(another avenue of work if in a pinch) keeping in mind you go the smaller route or maybe even the larger avenue.

    Even Chuck Sand’s had trial and error problems they used to build their hog stalls with block tried everything(to reinforce them) before they went with stainless steel crates/stalls(I’m sure it cut down on the bacteria also.

    I’ll get off the stump now.
    Just thought I give my 2 cents worth I have no stake don’t owe these guys anything. Just trying to help, good luck and good day to you sir. KC

  2. Duane Schiller Says:

    Great looking family in those pics! I enjoy reading your weekly blog adventures. Nice to see a wholesome family making the farm a reality!

    Good luck to you!

  3. Gladys Burns Says:

    Joel wanted to let you know that I think you know what you are doing as far as the farm goes and can decide what is best for you and your family. I think when growing that pumkin patches are beauiful. I was wondering if you ever watch the Rolloffs on t,v, on monday nights at 8pm-TNT ch 4o. If you log on to the Rolloffs cite on the internet I think you will enjoy it very much. They do great with their Pumpkin growing and other things. Try it . One more thing you write so beautifully. Good luck always.

  4. joelw Says:

    Believe me when I say it’s not that I don’t want or value your opinion or that I did not intend to respond to your comment. Bottom line I’m just so busy right now I don’t know if I’m coming or going. This time of year is rough for me and it usually doesn’t get any better until fall. I’m working 7 days a week at my job and trying to peice this farm together. I’ve considered every option imaginable. I want to do a pumpkin patch! Always have and always will. I’m a born teacher and giver. Sometimes you have to look at things from a business standpoint. Anything I do on this farm is a risk. I have 2 chickenhouses left here from when my grandparents and great uncle were in the poultry game so that in itself makes me uneasy. I wish they were alive to ask questions of. There has to be a reason why they quit. I have found lots of good people to build the poultry houses. I’ve settled on a builder. Now I just need to make a decision on the other aspects (electric, equipment, excavation, concrete) and see what the whole package looks like. I may very well say “NO WAY THIS IS NOT FOR ME”. I’m scared to death of being in debt, but I know I will never have anything without being in debt. The other thing I have to consider is what’s right for the rest of the family (mom, dad, kids, brothers, even the ex-wife). I’ll keep you posted on how this thing unravels!

    Thanks and keep om reading. I hope you enjoy!

    First off thanks for the vote of confidence. Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing what’s best for the kids.
    I do catch the Rolloffs as often as I can. Matter of fact I set it to DVR. It’s there with all the other stuff I rarely get to watch. I’ll check out the site. Again thanks and please keep reading!

  5. Robin Says:

    Hi Joel,
    I just wanted to share some of what I’ve learned about the poultry business in my 44 years. I grew up on poultry farms in New England and my father was on the cutting edge of all the new equipment and new ideas. We tried them all and worked for others who tried even more. I worked for two companies (I’ll leave names out) for 4 years traveling with my ex husband all over the country and Canada building cage coop operations and designing and engineering parts to improve and modify to the farmers needs. I’ve seen it all and am pretty sure I’ve done more than most (well, pertaining to poultry farm equipment anyway) It’s a big risk as I know you are well aware of, but I hope that you really do your homework in this venture.
    Your parents may have gotten out of the business during the big boom in the poultry farms biz that spread across the country when automation took the place of floor birds. I’d love to chat more with you about this if you can find the time.
    Take care and good luck and thanks for the great reading.

  6. Kevin Says:

    Joel, Family and Friends,
    Joel, don’t get disheartened! It is a long hard journey to reach a dream. Only the man who sets out on that journey knows whether or not it was worth the cost and effort when he reaches the end of it.
    I started the tractor this afternoon. At first it appeared that the battery was close to dead, so I put the charger on it, and thought I would just let it charge, but then I thought, “try the starter mode, and see what happens.” Sure enough I set it up to 75 amps and it kicked right over and started. I drove it around a little while, and then I let it idle for an hour to let the battery charge and to run out some of the old gas.
    We had about 3 – 4 inches of snow out of that storm that blew through here on Friday night. It was all melted off by Saturday afternoon. The ground and grass are still wet enough that the wheels of the tractor had water gushing up under them when I was driving around, looking at the fences, and the grass/trees. If the weather holds and warms up without more rain I need to mow this week, just to knock down what wintered over. No way can I work any ground right now, maybe next weekend. I haven’t planted anything yet, maybe next week.
    I am thinking of downsizing my shed a little. I am going to build one close to the house, enclose three sides, but it will only measure 16 x 24, with one 24 foot side open. I am still planning on building the 24 x 36, but right now I am short on the long green and am going to do this out of my pocket.
    Well Joel, keep at it. I understand about the work situation. Today was my one day every two weeks off. Most folks don’t understand that to make a go of it on a small farm, or starting out, you’ve got to put in a lot of hours, both on and off the farm, to make ends meet. Sometimes you’ve got to stretch it a little in the middle, but it seems like we can make it work.

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