Broken chicken tractors and God's sense of Humor

A funny thing happened the other day.  Our hen house is built on an old farm wagon frame and is moved every day to fresh pasture.  it had been a rainy week, one of the tires had gone flat and rather than fix it, i was pulling it around with the flat tire.  I just didn't feel like crawling under it to repair it in the mud AND manure. (manure is bad enough, but ad moisture and it becomes unbearable)  soooo, I was being lazy and letting the tire flop around on the rim.  I had made one pass down the field and was turning around to go back up the hill when the flat tire dug into the mud and locked there, bending the axle and steering system all up and just making a terrible mess out of it all.  I crawled underneath the house and saw the repairs needed were way beyond my skill set.  So there I was, a broken hen house that could not be moved, stuck in a creek bottom that is prone to flooding, and rain on the way.  I crawled out from under the house and said a quick prayer something like, "God, this is beyond my ability to straighten out, can you help me?"  Only a few seconds later, I hear a voice say to me, "Hello Mr. Greg, how can I help you?"  Wow, I know God answers prayer, but so fast and so clearly?  The voice was coming, not from the heavens, but from my belt.  when i had crawled out from under the hen house, my big belly had pushed a button on my cell phone, but i had not figured that out yet.  I asked, "who is this?"  the voice said it was Anthony, my tractor mechanic and friend.  Anthony grew up on a farm and knows how to fix just about anything.  He asked  me why I called and i told him i had not called him but he had called me. He assured me that i had called him, and not vice versa. That's when i realized that during the struggle to get out from under the hen house in the mud and crud, my phone must have dialed him automatically.  He asked me what I was up to, and I told him I was under my hen house.  "Well, you are the first person TODAY that has told me THAT," he said.  when he asked what on earth I was doing under there, i told him about how I had destroyed the steering system under my hen house by dragging it through the mud with flat tire.  he informed me that NOBODY had EVER told him THAT in his WHOLE life and that I was a "truly unique individual."  Well, I don't know about the unique part, off-the-wall maybe, but I am sure that there are other lunatics like me out there, somewhere.  we both had a laugh, then he asked me if he could help me at all.  Being a diesel mechanic, Anthony has a truck FULL of tools, air compressors, torches and just about anything that anybody needs to fix just about anything.  he said, "i'll be there in about an hour", and 45 minutes after that, after heating, hammering and lots of banging, the old chicken house was good as new.

There are hundreds of numbers in my cell phone, of all kinds of friends, customers and other acquaintances, but only one guy with a truckload of tools working less than two miles away.  why would my big ole belly call that guy?  coincidence?  i think not. Could it be God helping me and getting a laugh out of (and on) me?  I'd be more inclined to believe that.

Anyway, the hen house is working great now, being moved to a fresh spot every day. the birds feasting on grass, seeds, bugs and whatever else a chicken likes to eat, and making plenty of beautiful, fresh pasture-raised eggs.


Branding/An Introduction

We have been working to find direction with our farm, not just with what we grow and raise, but with design and branding.  I have been working overtime trying to find this, experimenting with colors, fonts, and the whole feeling of what we're doing with the farm.

After months and months of very long hours in front of the computer, I am finally satisfied.

Our new look represents the simplicity we desire with the bold, yet subtle fonts and colors.

To go along with our new and hopefully final look, I have been putting together a series of videos about the farm.  First in line is a video titled An Introduction. I do not have the right video editor on our computer, so this is a slideshow of pictures my sister and I have taken along with the premise of the farm and the role each animal plays in making healthy soil and healthy food.

Thanks to farmer Greg (daddy!) for writing the video, well most of it. I think you'll agree {daddy} that cutting out the "Eating and eating, and pooping and pooping" was really in our best interest.

Here is the video itself if you would like to watch and share!


Cows on Green Grass (Finally!!)

I have been less-than-enthusiastic about posting lately.  The killer drought knocked the wind out of our sails, but we are still standing.  a friend reminded me of that today when he said to me that the bad part of the drought is passed, and we are still here.  Not that the drought is over, we are still behind on our rainfall at least 20 inches, maybe more.  However, for the last two weeks, we have gotten several nice rains, and everything is GREEN.  Since September, I have been planting winter grass seeds, 2000 lbs of them so far. Now they are sprouting, and the fields are a vibrant green.  The cows are out on the grass, with their heads down, eating grass,  instead of high-dollar hay, for the first time since June!  All summer we had been cutting down hackberry trees, a first-growth hardwood that takes over fence-rows all over this part of the country.  Their leaves are irresistible to cows, goats and pigs.  We had them all summer, and ran out of them as the first leaves were falling: perfect timing!

Our chickens have been another story.  since the summer, they have produced very little.  Now we are getting 6-8 eggs per day, and that from 300 chickens.  all summer long, especially in the very bad heat, I would find 1-3 birds dead every morning.  The extreme heat, 72 days over 100, was just too much for them.  I don't know why they don't produce now, they look beautiful and healthy, but no eggs.  Something has to change, or we are going to be eating a LOT of chicken soup!


And we're still surviving the drought

We are in our 15th month now of what they are calling the worst drought in Texas history.  A huge high pressure system has sat above us now since June 2010, forcing rainstorms, tropical storms and even hurricanes away from us.  We had our first measurable rainfall this week since June, a whopping 2 inches.  Not a drought-breaker, but very welcomed.  Its wonderful to see 1/2 tall green shoots coming up out in the field.  I never thought I would be glad to see 1/2 inch tall grass in my pastures, but compared to what it was a week ago, its a lush, green paradise!  On top of the drought was the extreme heat.  This summer, we had 71 days over 100 degrees, (the average is 5 days).  It was brutally hot.  Our egg production dropped from 18-20 cartons to just 2.  Chickens will, in their fight to survive the heat, will stop producing eggs, thus the radical drop in production.  Even though the house was moved to the shade, it was still 107 in the shade, too hot for a chicken!

We have been feeding our cows since June, and ran out of our own hay reserves in July.  Now we are forced to buy hay, which is pricey.  We supplement with Hackberry trees, cutting 2 or 3 down each morning.  The cows come running when they hear the chainsaw!  We also found that the cows will eat the chips from the guys who clean the power lines.    They are always looking for a place to dump, and we get as many truckloads as we can.  We spread them out on the field, then the cows come and eat the leaves and pine needles out of it.  After a few days, I just push it all up onto the pile where the cows eat their hay. they stomp on it, and put their manure and urine on it, giving it a jump start to breaking down. in a year or so, I will spread it on my pastures as compost for a super-rich natural fertilizer.

The pond, now cleaned out. 

Our pond dried up last November, and I was recently able to get somebody in there with a machine to dig all the sludge out of it.  Now we are ready for rain!


A little good news about dirt and worms

I have very little good news these days, so I need to share what I have.  I have been noticing that the earthworms are still coming up and consuming the manure plops.  In the morning, I find worm castings on top of the cow pies, which tells me that the worms are taking that manure, and carrying it deep into the ground, up to a foot and a half deep.  There is an exponential growth in fertility in worm castings, if something is loaded in nutrition before the worms ate it, its way more fertile after it passed through them.  So, while it appears that not much is happening above ground, under the ground the worms and dung beetles are packing fertility into the soil, and the soil microbes and fungi are working to break down leaves, dead grass and manure.  When it does rain again, our soil will be super-fertile, and we should have a rich, green stand of rich grass for our animals to feed on.