Life of a Farm Blog

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Archive for March, 2008

Getting Better All The Time

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

Things are looking up for the farm. It’s not nearly as crazy here. The chickens have kind of settled into a routine. All the equipment has cooperated since I last posted too. Eggs are starting to pick up. Yesterday we gathered about 600 from both houses. Still a far cry from the 12,000 that should come at about 30 weeks, but atleast we are getting some. Lots of the eggs are being layed on the slats or in the shavings right now since the chickens are young. Hopefully as they get older they will make their way to the nest. We have tenatively agreed to keep a diary for Farm and Ranch Living magazine in September so sometime after then you can look for us in the magazine.

We took some time off on Sunday to attend Bethel Baptist Church for Easter services. I hadn’t been to church in a while and I really enjoyed it. The kids got to hunt Easter eggs and go to “lil church”. They have a special kids church in the back. It’s great that emphasis is being put on the little ones and teaching on their level. Gives the adults a break too. You don’t have to worry with fidgeting children you can relax and enjoy the sermon. Easter is one of my favorite holidays. Not only the spring time weather and coloring eggs, but the real significance of the holiday. It seems to be less tainted than some of the other holidays. You can still say Happy Easter without offending anyone, I think. My brother Paul and his wife came to visit and eat dinner Sunday too. It was good to see him. It had been a while. I’m hoping since he got a new car he will come visit more often. Then maybe I can trick him into helping me out around the farm.

Monday morning BJ had a chiropractic appointment and I needed to get grass seed so I offered to drive her. I got up at regular time and did all the feeding as usual and then we spent the rest of the morning bouncing around Somerset. We stopped at Tractor Supply Company and amazingly I only spent $20. Maybe I should leave the kids behind more often. Who am I kidding I’m worse than they are about spending money on toys. My toys usually consist of tools and tractor stuff so they’re way more expensive. We stopped at Southern States Cooperative and picked up all the grass seed we’re going to need for the acreage we cleared last fall. We’re putting it in an orchard grass/clover mix. That way it should be good pasture for anything we want to put on it and should be high quality hay if we decide to use it for hay. Then we made our way up to Valley Farm Equipment to see Wes for a FEL hose for the 7010. We stopped and got a bite to eat, but as always we couldn’t agree where we wanted to eat so we ended up sitting in the truck with drive thru from Hardee’s and Burger King. Bj is big on Hardee’s ham and cheese sandwiches. I don’t particularly care for Hardee’s except at breakfast then it’s my favorite. I’m fond of the new BBQ Bacon Tendercrisp sandwich at Burger King.

Seems like a lot of people are following this presidential election closer than usual. I agree with a lot of the people who are saying this country is at crossroads. This next president has a lot of work to do. Myself I am still undecided. I am a registered Republican because almost all the local elections are decided at the primary and the majority of the candidates are Republican. I have strong ties to Democratic values and come from a long line of Democrats. It’s so much more difficult than Democrat or Republican though. As a farmer I see the need for immigration and migrant labor, but know companies abuse it. From a tax standpoint I’d be much better off to vote Republican. Democrats are much more friendly to labor unions and I have strong beliefs in rights to organize. I believe in our 2nd ammendment rights to own a gun as do Republicans. So I geuss I’ll follow this thing all the way to the end before I decide.

Yesterday was shaping up to be a good day. My dad came down and spent some time helping me trace down a short in a fan at the chickenhouse. That gave us an opportunity to talk and for him to see how much time I’m spending busting my backside here. I think we both came away from it with a better understanding of what we expect from each other. We’ve agreed on a salary that is a minimum I will receive plus a bonus if we get any egg bonus. The money for the grass seed came from the farm account too. We both want this farm to build some operating capital and to be self sufficient. We have talked about building a second set of these houses and bringing my older brother in to run them if he wants to.

I say yesterday was shaping up to be a good day because everything was clicking right along until we broke the tie rod mount on the 7010. My dad and I headed off to disc the 20 acres we cleared in the fall with discs on the 7010 and the 6000. I was getting all the rough and tight spots with the 6000 and the lift disc while he was doing the main part with the pull type disc on the 7010. I’d forgotten how much I like the 6000 and it’s sheer bulletproof simplicity. I noticed I hadn’t seen my dad in a while. Then I saw him walking toward me. I thought “this can’t be good”. He said we got trouble and I thought he had turned it over because a part of it is steep. Turned out that he had turned a tight left and the tie rod mount broke loose from the axle. It took him a few minutes to figure out what had happened. This will be the second trip to Valley Farm Equipment in less than a week. Earlier in the week I had to get a FEL hose replaced on the 7010.

Well as always lots to do here so I better get busy. We have set up a yahoo! mail account for those of you who wish to contact us in a less public way. Just send mail to musablog@yahoo.com and be sure to check out all the pics I’ve added to the site! Thanks for reading, hope you enjoy!

 

 

Life with chickens!

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

Wow! That’s all I know to say. It’s been 7 days a week, 10-16 hours a day since the 28th. Seems something is always amiss. Every time I tell myself I’m going to take a little break today, something happens. This is the quietest it has been here at the farm in months. I’m hoping things are finally slowing down a little before the eggs start coming from daylight to dark. Still alot to do, but atleast now they are small things. Hopefully nothing else breaks!

I expected there to be problems initially with this new equipment, but I wasn’t sure really how much to expect. I certainly didn’t expect to come in and find the inlet machine had pulled itself off the wall. That was a real pain. Literally, I might add. Somehow I managed to mash the fire out of my finger putting it back up. The motor on these things is really strong. It pulled 6-4 inch lag bolts out of the wall. I told the service tech I was going to bolt it more securely this time and he was quick to discourage me from that. Seems another farm bolted it to the wall and it just pulled the wall in about 6 to 8 inches. Think I’ll settle for making sure I’ve got it adjusted properly and secured with the lag bolts again.

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Feed spills have been another hurdle. I’ve had to duct tape, screw, and plain reassemble some of the feed systems. The chickens will peck anywhere they can see feed. That means if they see it below the slats they peck until they injure themselves even though there is no way they can reach it. In turn that means it all has to be cleaned up. We’ve either been taking a shop vac and sucking it up or I have literally crawled under the slats and used a dustpan as a shovel. Then we carry it out in 5 gallon buckets. Just yesterday the feeder came apart where the auger runs into it and spilled about 300 – 350 pounds. The contractor who installed the equipment (4 State Poultry) has not been back to fix the small things they were supposed to. Luckily the service tech came yesterday and I got him to help me put it all back together. He’s new at this too so we are learning together. I told him yesterday I feel like I’ve been thrown out of a boat in the middle of the ocean and now I have 2 choices, sink or swim.

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I spent about 5 hours yesterday trying to get the drives in shape with the 7010. Temps got up into the 70s and it got hot in the cab so I tried out the air conditioning. I moved 52 tons of #3 gravels and smoothed them out as well as drug the rest of the drives. I just don’t like the bucket on it as good as the 6000 for this type work. Maybe it because it’s new and I just don’t want to get it all scratched up. My brother borrowed the 6000 2 weeks ago and I still haven’t gotten it back. I’ve lost my lease on 40 acres of hay field. The neighbor who I loaned my equipment to all last summer cut my throat on it. Lifes lessons, no good deed goes unpunished. I simply did not have time to roll his hay for him last year so I loaned him my equipment and in return he goes behind my back and undercuts me. He had the nerve to ask me would I roll it for him. What’s wrong with people? Oh well, let him get rich cutting hay!

The chickenhouse has put a real strain on time I get to spend with the kids. We did get away for a few hours Sunday to go shopping. Mattie picked out a new bicycle since she’s outgrown her old one. She is growing up on me. It’s hard to believe that she is riding a bicycle all by herself. Seems like just yesterday she was born. Garett is more into computers and games so he picked up a game for his Nintendo DS. Drawn to Life I believe was the name of it. He is becoming interested in art. Every time I turn around he’s doodling something. Kaylee got clothes and we got a new basketball goal and wiffle ball set to share. Kaylee is becoming less and less interested in the farm. She’d much rather live in a subdivision somewhere around all her friends. She says she is embarrased by old blue and wants me to get a truck that’s not a diesel. One of her friends moms is dating a guy who lets her drive around in his Hummer. Now the race is on in Kaylees mind to one up her friend. She has asked me a couple times in the past few weeks when I was going to buy a truck or if I was going to buy another Trans Am like I wanted. How do I make her understand life isn’t about things like cars and houses?

I geuss the chickenhouses have put a strain on the entire family. My dad and I are partners in this. We had not uttered an ill word toward one another in 15-20 years until this, but we sure have now.  He has chosen the book keeper against my wishes and now they can’t agree on what salary I should receive. Just happens to be my brothers wife. I didn’t know that book keepers set salaries, but in this case I geuss they do. My hands are tied because the contract is in both our names and the money goes directly into a checking account that requires 2 signatures. I’m working for free as of now and have been since November. I’ve exhausted my 401k and savings and can’t hold out much longer. If they can’t agree on something soon I’ll have to find a real job and let the chips fall where they may. I’m really discouraged because this was supposed to be my way to stay home on the farm and it may turn out to be my way off the farm. I have asked both of them to sign a check to get grass seed for the land we had cleared and as of yet neither have been willing to. I’m used to taking money out of my pocket to do these things with and now I have to ask permission from someone else before I can spend the money I am rightfully earning.

Well need to be working on those little things so I’ll go! Be sure to check out all the pics I’ve added and check back soon!

Sea of White

Sunday, March 2nd, 2008

Well folks it’s official, we are chicken farmers. We got our first delivery of birds from Cobb yesterday. 7032 females and 610 males. More are coming today. I already have mixed emotions about this venture. I am a little bit intimidated by the complexity of the equipment. Absolutely everything is automatic. There is very little work involved. Basically the only manual labor will be walking the floors, picking the eggs up from the tables, and disposing of the dead. I feel for the birds. While they are loose in the houses and have quite a bit of room to move around freely, it just isn’t natural. They have shavings to scratch through, but no dirt. I’m used to chickens scratching for bugs and other critters. I geuss I’ll just get used to it. The birds really do seem content. I was glad that 4 State Poultry finally came through for us. When I started this project their rep, Vance Gates, convinced me to use them. In the end it was him who finally got this whole thing running. My hats off to him! Without his help we would not have birds today. I sincerely hope that 4 state knows what an asset he is to their operation! While I’m saying thanks to people, I need to recognize what an important part of this whole deal BJ has been too. Our relationship has been odd, strained, and downright bad a lot of this time, but she has always put her best foot forward to help me! I hope she knows she is appreciated!

             

Still no calf from the cow we bought that was obviously very pregnant. There has been so much to do at the chickenhouse I have barely had time to eat and sleep. Madison and Garett came running when the first truck of birds showed up. I made them stay outside because of the dust from the shavings. They were very excited though and can’t wait to get inside with the birds. It has been good to be close to the kids. It’s a relief just knowing that I am a stones throw away from them most all the time. My dad came and stayed with us the 2 nights prior to getting birds so he could help get everything ready. It was good to have him around and he was a big help too. He constatly amazes me with his knowledge of things electrical and mechanical, not to mention about life in general.

I was glad to get the 7010 back in action. Just a day or so after I last posted I got a package from both KMW and Mahindra. I now have the entire O ring kit for the loader valve as well as an extra load check plug and the internals. I’ve found the best way not to need a part is to have it on hand. You never need the parts you have. Turns out the 7010 was my transportation to the chickenhouse a couple days this week. Okay, I could’ve walked since it’s only a few hundred yards through the feild, but it’s just easier to drive. We got our first and probably only real snow of the year. It was only a couple inches, but underneath it was a layer of ice. I sent my truck home with our friend Kenny so I knew he would be able to make it back here to finish up the construction and plumbing of the wellhouse. Old Blue (my truck) isn’t doing too well these days. I’m seriously considering trading. Only thing is I’m not sure what I want if I trade. I’ve always been a GM guy, but this 6.5 litre turbo deisel has really turned me against GM. I’m really fond of the Cummins engine in the Dodges, but want an automatic transmission. Dodge automatics don’t have a great reputation. GM has the Allison automatic transmission which is awesome. I geuss the Fords are okay. My younger brother is a Ford technician. I just have always had GMs and can’t bring myself to go the Ford route. I hear Mahindra is bringing a truck to the US in a year or so maybe I can make “old blue” last until I get a peek at them.

BJ and the older girls have brought me into the technical age. They have convinced me that the farm needs a my space page. So with their help we’ll be adding to it all the time. We’re also going to try to set up our own website when we get time. I think it’s neat to have so many ways to share everything with the world. The internet is a great thing!

As always there is a whole pile of things to do and I don’t seem to be getting them done so I better get up from here and do something. Thanks for reading and be sure to check out the pics we have added!

 

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