May 2017 Newsletter
What's Going On at the Farm
For May 2017
With the farm market season in full swing, and the tourist season starting to get cranked up, we are asking ourselves "what happened to spring, where did the last few months go?". It seems like just last week we were planting the garden and now we have begun picking squash and will have green beans in the next 2 to 3 weeks. We are already seeing days in the 90's and nights in the mid 60's. For us this means the Coastal Bermuda hay field will begin growing and the days of cutting hay will be coming soon. Right now we are still grazing the cows in the hay field and letting them eat the last of the winter rye and the first blades of Coastal.
The end of May will bring change to the farm. Since late last summer we have had 2 local FFA girls working on the farm, helping with the evening chores and handling the weekend chores while we are at the Saturday farmers markets or trying to catch some family time on Sunday. Both of the girls will graduate from Colleton High on May 27 and will leave us at the end of May. Both Victoria and Meagan would like to have some down time before heading to College in August. College is a big step from high school and they will never get this time in their life back. Taking a couple months off and enjoying themselves is a good move. These girls never missed a day without calling and letting us know they wouldn't be in. They always had smiles on their faces and handled every task without a minutes complaint. We will miss them around here and wish them nothing but success for their future. Both say they will be back often to visit and threaten to get chicken tattoos' to remember their time at the farm. Come back anytime but forget the tattoos'.
The girls told us they would be leaving several weeks ago providing us ample time to decide what direction we wanted to go. We have had several conversations about hiring more high school kids or hiring a permanent, full time, person. We really like providing a job option for the kids but really need another person that can help with daily chores, project work, and even fill in on deliveries if someone is sick. We have talked to one person that is graduating from high school this month and wants full time work on a farm. He has a little farm experience but also received a certificate in carpentry which will allow us to put him on some of the building projects we have going on right now. We will make a decision in the next week or so.
In early May we hired 2 high school boys, on a temporary basis, to help with a couple of fencing projects we have going on. Currently they are working on the new sow pen alleyway and will end that project by building a new loading shoot. They have also worked on a little bit of our free range chicken yard fences and will continue building more of these pastures in the next few weeks.
There are several other changes coming to the sow pen area in upcoming months including the construction of a new, permanent, farrowing house. The farrowing house will be at the front of the sow pens which will eliminate the need to transport the sows to the portable farrowing house to give birth. This alone will make things better for the sow and those having to move them. The new house will be 42' x 21' and will utilize farrowing pens rather than farrowing crates, and will contain 2 nursery pens; both farrowing and nursery pens will be bedded with stray or hay. We will have plenty of lighting, permanent running water (no more hoses), and numerous fans to help cool the sows in the summer. We have already gotten a quote on the concrete work and the building. We will handle the plumbing and construction of the pens ourselves and will get the electrical estimate when we are closer to beginning the project. We expect to begin the project in August or September and hope to be completed by the end of the year.
The chicken project continues. To date we have 4 of the permanent houses and the required pastures completed along with the new brooder house. The 5th pasture house is nearly completed and should be ready to put birds in within the week. Bubba has moved 3 additional houses into position and has set them up for use on a temporary basis. The temporary houses will need to be renovated to be used in our pastured system. We will use the houses as they are now and will rebuild the houses, 1 at a time, when they are empty; it will take about 2 weeks to tear apart and remodel each of the houses. By using the temporary houses along with the completed houses, we can stop using chicken tractors which will save us a considerable amount of time daily. We are running about a month behind on this project and expect that to only get worse as the temperature goes higher this summer. We are hoping that hiring the additional person will help move this project along.
I know we have talked a lot of about the projects we have been working on since December. These projects are very important to the continuation of the farm; we need to make these changes or the future of the farm could be in question. I'm not trying to sound dramatic but its the truth. Sustainability is what makes a farm like ours work and continuing to farm as we were was just not sustainable. Working 7 days a week, 12 plus hours a day, for months on end, isn't sustainable. Hiring undependable, labor, isn't sustainable. Spending hours on tasks which provide no income and only force us to spend money on labor, like moving chicken tractors, is unsustainable. We needed to make these changes to allow the farm to grow and to make it truly sustainable for everyone.
The first rows of corn planted in March are now tasseling. We have begun harvesting yellow squash and have tomatoes on our plants. The first rows of green beans and the butter beans are in bloom; we should be ready to pick in another week or so. We have had several visits from the deer in the last week and have a good amount of damage on the green beans. We are hoping to still make a crop and have enough to can and a few to sell. The pumpkins are in bloom and we have spotted a few small pumpkins on the vines. We got busy and didn't plant the okra until last week so it will be a while before we will be getting any fresh okra. Everything but the sweet corn is being grown organically. We did have to use a commercial fertilizer on the corn but are not going to use any insecticides; expect a worm at the tip of the ear.
I want to end this months newsletter by saying thanks to everyone for the thoughts, prayers, and condolences for our loss of Coco. We rescued Coco 13-1/2 years ago along with her 7 or 8 litter mates. A friend of ours got the litter from someone that was going to take the puppies to the lake and drown them. He couldn't afford to keep them or spay his dog to stop her from having more litters. Between our friend, Annie, and I, we found homes for all of the puppies and kept Coco for ourselves.
Coco had several issues over the years but the majority of her problems came after she was bitten by the timber rattler 3 years ago. The treatment for the snake bite left her diabetic which eventually lead to a host of other problems. The health issues didn't seem to bother Coco and she handled the morning and evening shots without blinking an eye. I hope I can do as well when my health starts deteriorating.
Early in May Coco had what we think was a series of strokes and had to be put down. We miss her more than most people will realize but are very grateful for the years we had to spend with her.
Memorial Day is coming soon. Please take the time to think about the men and women that fought for our freedom and the personal sacrifices that they all made. Take a minute and thank a vet or a current service man or woman for their service to our country. A small thank you is the least that we can do for everything they do for us.
Thanks for your continued support of our farm. We look forward to seeing you at a farmers market or at our farm soon.
Annie, Marc, Jesse, and Amy