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Footsteps Farm Journal, Continued

2004

September 7, 2004: Well, we really dropped the ball on this one, we have been so busy clearing land and acquiring animals that there has been no time for journal entries. Now that we are ready to publish our web site, it is time to bring you up to date.

Lot clearing: still at it! We have the north 5-acre Lot done, although I do have to raise the umbrella of the trees. You shouldn't have any branches below 20 feet so the shade will move quickly and hence the cows will move more often, thereby spreading out the manure piles and internal parasites more.

The House Lot is coming along, everything is cut down and pretty much cut up, now it all just has to be moved to piles so we can burn them this winter after there is snow on the ground. A lot of the wood will have rotted by then, helping with the fertilization.

One of MANY brush piles

The South 5-acre Lot needs work, it is about 2/3rds done, the 4-acre Lot is about 1/3 done and I need to spend a lot of time in there dropping trees this winter. By the time we move all the animals into the House Lot for winter (it's easier for watering and hay) it should be all cleared, then we hope to borrow a york rake and rake it all.

The Ox Pasture's first paddock area has been fenced in and the trees dropped but not yet cut up. The stone guy came in and purchased a lot of stone from us including our stone piles that were made when our ancestors and the slaves and servants cleared the land. Hogs clearing the Ox PastureWe also had the Ox Pasture timbered and he took most all of the oaks and some hickory, and left all the maples for tapping. Cody's Lot is about done, a few pieces of brush to pile up.

The Lane Way is all cut but again the brush needs to be piled up and burnt, then the whole thing needs to be gone over with our Stihl brush cutter. The hogs did a good job in there when they weren't escaping.

The pastures were soil tested last October (2003) and we were told to put down 5 tons of lime per acre, we could only afford 5 tons over all of our pastures. It did make a difference and we hope we can afford to do it right in 2005. We did use some fertilizer and that also made a huge difference given that the pastures have been neglected since the 1960's.

I took a seminar from the Stockman Grass Farmer and went to TN, to learn an abundance of information. The most important part was that it would take at least 5 years to get our pastures in shape. We had considered having a herbicide (Crossbow) spread but decided against it. I really don't want to use that kind of stuff because if there was any wind drift my two brothers and my cousin could loose who knows what in their flower gardens, including their bees, etc.

The idea of a "Roto-wiper" came up but the cost just wasn't justified, besides we would rather be patient and let Nature do her thing. With the animals help we can eventually get rid of the milk weed, poke weed, ivy and other weeds that now crowd our lots.

In February we again let nature help us by naturally seeding 65% perennial rye, 10% white clover, 10% red clover, 10% alfalfa and 5% timothy.

In February, we lost Mr. Williams, our 1 ½ year old bull. He bloated, and I found him one morning just before I was to leave for work. I stuck him in the back with my knife and let the air out (we had not yet found a good vet) but about a hour later he bloated again. I made up a tube out of copper pipe and duct tape, stuck him again, and put in the drain. After about 2 hours Penny the cow came over and looked at me, then stuck her horn under Mr. Williams. She stepped back and looked at me, then did it again. I said to her "Penny are you trying to tell me something?" I then rolled him over, he blew air out of both ends and in 45 minutes was up drinking water.

That was on a Thursday. That weekend Christine Bomster my transportation gal and I went to Up-State New York to pick up our 3 Tamworth Hogs, Perry, Pearl, and Olive, and when we got back Mr. Williams was dead.

Pearl and a Babe (behind the rock)

Pearl had her litter in April, but we were too nice to her. I had built an A-frame farrowing hut but gave her too much hay so she built a nest outside of the hut. She had a litter of 10, 2 were still-born, she crushed 5, and 3 made it though.

We have since built a new farrowing house, and Olive did great in there in June. She had 2 still-born and the rest made it.

Do not skimp on fencing, we have used aluminum wire and tried 3 different types of fence chargers. The first was 5 joules, the second was 10. The piglets when pastured in the Laneway kept getting out from under the fence, so we now have a 15 joule charger purchased from Kencove Fence. (You can find them in our Links page.) You need to put down one ground rod per joule, especially when it is dry, so we have 15 ground rods.

We use step in-posts, and these are also available at Kencove, so far we have spent $2,193.43 for fence supplies and that price does not include the $500.00 we paid for the new charger, shipping and ground rods.

In March we got some more chicken but still have not been able to hook up with any one who can sell us Red Dorkings. Once we find a supply we will certainly become a breeder of them.

We did get some Bourbon Red Turkeys. We had seen them where we got the hogs (from the Hubels in NY, GREAT people) and fell in love with them. We now have 10 and just yesterday we heard our first gobble and saw our first "strut".

Chickens inside the penBoth the turkeys and the chickens will be pastured and we have included a photo to give you an idea of how we are doing it. Right now the chickens are out all day and go in by themselves at night. The Turkeys have free access to our asparagus bed. We had built trap doors so the fowl can get in to different areas, as we wanted it weeded.

In May we purchased Selina from Nat. She is due to arrive in September, and this will bring our herd to Selina, Penny, Monique, Sarah, Bullseye, DeNiro (named after Robert Deniro in "Raging Bull"), Isaac, and Elijah.

In June, we got rid of one Dorset ram and one ewe because they didn't respect the fence. Perhaps if we could have had them sheared more often they wouldn't have gone under the wire, or if I could have afforded a good set of clippers it would have solved the problem...oh well, live and learn.

Also in June, we purchased Newt, a handsome bull from Mr. Robert Lowe. We paid good money for him but it was worth the cost as we have seen his offspring. One of Newt's heifers who was the same age as Isaac is at least 6 inches taller. They make our cows look like skinny small misfits; however, to be fair, our cows were raised in this manner as the breeder was trying to breed to get back to the original smaller size of the true old Highland Cattle.

We picked up Newt after our vacation, so he came to our farm in late Jul. It was this month that we also SAVED Kate, a lone sheep, after two dogs killed the rest of the flock of a friend of the family.

We had our 4 bulls castrated by Doc Hoffman, a true old-time vet who comes to the farm and gets the job done. We have had his family here knee deep in cow manure and all working together to give shots and make steers out of bulls.

Cocoa and NillaIn August we received a call from a friend who wanted us to "save the goats," so to make a long story short we now have 2 goats—Nilla (the white one, short for vanilla) and Cocoa (the brown one)—who originally belonged to our transportation gal Christine. She had sold them to an elderly man who ended up not being able to care for them. I hear now that he has been looking to purchase a heifer...

Our finances are tracked on "Quick Books" and I highly recommend it. Our CPA is one heck of a great guy and well worth having him on board. The best part is that he is a farmer and knows the business.

We have changed our insurance to cover our farm and all of its many facets. We are changing our land designation from Residential to Farm and will soon be getting Farm plates on my truck.

We have already paid for our winter supply of round bales from George Robinson, who is also a farmer and great guy; in fact it was George who took me to Mr. Banker's place to learn what I was doing wrong after Pearl lost so many piglets. Farmers are just the greatest bunch of people and always willing to help out.

Two days ago, on Labor Day, we welcomed a new kitten into the family, Charlie. Charlie had been snatched from the stables in Van Cortland Park in the Bronx (New York), and was found a half-mile away in the park at an old colonial home. He was taken home by our friend and webmaster, Sarah, who emailed to see if we wanted a new cat. When we responded we wanted an orange tabby, she replied that is just what she had, in an adorable long-legged bundle with orange eyes. It was FATE. Already, Charlie and our other cat Sly are best buddies and bad boys, and he is a fantastic addition.

This brings you pretty much up to date on where we are. I didn't include an almost daily occurrence of brush cutting and hauling, the weekly fence checking and repairs, and the upkeep of buildings (we have painted almost everything we own in the last month). The family (Sheryl, Jeff, and Kevin) have all taken a very active part in this enterprise by helping in the monumental task of clearing land. Sheryl in particular does all of the TAXI MOM stuff, football, baseball, 4H, school trips, band concerts etc.

Kevin is 11 right now and has bees. He enjoys them but doesn't like getting stung. He is more in tune with the farm and really likes working with the animals. Jeff is 14 and raises worms for compost, etc; he also is a great help when he isn't busy with sports.

Having a farm is worth all the work when you have great family members who help out, add this to the awesome experience of working and living with the animals, and life is GOOD !!!

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