An Unlucky Bull

I’ve noticed that out here in Virginia there is no set calving season for farmers with a beef herd. Just as many calves hit the ground in late summer and fall as there are during the traditional spring calving season. This account happened a short time ago near Luray.

A local farmer had loaded his prize black Angus bull into a truck to move it from the bull pasture near his farm to a rented pasture where his cow herd had spent the summer. Coming down a hill on state highway 340 just west of Stanley, a tire blew out and sent the truck into the ditch, overturning when he tried to pull it back onto the highway.

State trooper Miller is known to have what he thinks is a secret hiding spot nearby to watch for speeders, luckily was at his ‘post’ that morning. Upon getting the call, being nearby, he arrived shortly at the scene of the accident where he found the bull with two broken legs. Using his service revolver, he went ahead and put the bull down.

Coming around the vehicle, trooper Miller found the farmer lying on the ground. With his revolver still in his hand, he asked the farmer, “Are you okay?”

Onlookers at the scene are reported to have said that the man jumped to his feet and while brushing himself off said, “There’s nothing wrong with me, officer, nothing at all!”

Evidently, he knew trooper Miller all to well.

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Wayward Sheep

The year was 1978 and Langford, SD was looking for an agriculture instructor to start an agricultural education program in their school system. The Pickle Queen’s two older brothers had an empty farmstead 14 miles out-of-town where we could move onto. It was just a few miles from their places and they had added this land to their operation and didn’t want the buildings to set empty. So, we loaded up our belongings and moved from a new home in Fairmont, MN to an older farm-house in windswept SD.

We had neighbors about a half mile to our west. An empty farmstead sat half a mile to the east. Between us and the place to the west sat a slough that provided excellent duck hunting in the fall. A stock dam sat in our pasture between our building site and the empty place to the east. Deer liked to travel between the rushes of these two water sources via the grove of trees surrounding our place that gave us some wind protection on all sides except the south. But, I digress.

The Enstad’s, living on the place west of us, had a dairy operation with a small farm flock of sheep to give the kids some responsibility. They had no problem with the dairy cows getting out, but the ewe’s were another story. Anyone who has been around sheep know that there hasn’t been a fence built that sheep can’t find a way through. It seems that it was a weekly chore for the Enstad’s to round up the wayward sheep and return them to their pen.

It was a colder Saturday afternoon in mid-winter of 1980 when Brownie, our ‘farm dog’ started raising a ruckus. Knowing that coyotes were a common occurrence in the neighborhood, I grabbed my rifle and headed out the door. As I rounded the trees to out east, I seen the Enstad’s with their flock of sheep on the other side of our frozen stockdam. Evidently, the coyotes had scattered the flock and they were in the process of trying to get them back home. I walked over to them and said, “Hey neighbor, what are you up to?” as if I didn’t already know. I had seen them trying to chase the sheep  across the frozen ice, with no luck. I had seen them try to push the frightened ewe’s across the ice, also with no luck. As they were grabbing the sheep to try pulling them across I said, “You can’t take your sheep home that way.”

He replied, “I was just taking a shortcut across your frozen pond. What’s wrong with that?”

“Nobody pulls the wool over my ice!” I answered.

Think about it, he had to.

Keep your fork

Massanutten Bacon Candle

A recent news headline read something like this,’PETA Asked Why Anyone Would Ever Eat Bacon.’ A few politicians jumped into the fray, but I won’t join them. I think they may have a twitter account and are willing to go off half cocked like some of our ‘leaders’ do now-a-days! So, if you don’t care to eat the bacon, just save the fat and throw the bacon away.

Let me set the picture for the guys who are reading this. It’s your anniversary and you are making a special romantic meal for your wife. You get the meatloaf in the oven along with the baked potatoes wrapped in tinfoil, and go to set the table. Oh, No! You don’t have a candle for the center piece. No worry.

Everyone has or should have a jar in the kitchen cupboard where you pour and keep your excess bacon grease just like your mother did. I am one of those people who can’t bear to throw away perfectly good bacon grease. Someday you’ll need some and you may not have any! That day is today. Taking the jar out of the cupboard you notice that there isn’t any wick in your ‘candle.’ Again, no worry. Knowing that all you need is a piece of natural fiber for a wick, you decide that you have two choices. You could tear a shred off your T-shirt or cut a strand from the mop hanging in the closet. Knowing that you’d be in big trouble if you tore up a T-shirt, you opt for the mop strand. You grab a chop stick ( or any thin forked stick) and jam your mop strand (wick) into the jar. Be sure to rub the top end of the wick with a little of the grease to make lighting it a little easier.

No bacon grease? Once again, no problem. Take a package or two of bacon from the ice box or freezer. Tear off the fatty pieces and pack the pieces into a jar. Go back one paragraph to see how to solve your lack of a wick problem. Now, not wanting to waste the meat portion of the bacon slices, you take the meat loaf from the oven and poke the meat pieces down into the loaf. My Dad always said,  “Everything tastes better with bacon. Even a dog turd.” How he knew, I don’t know! I do know that the smell of bacon is almost as good as the taste of bacon.

If you are a gal reading this, skip the anniversary scenario. If you need an emergency candle because of a storm or for what ever reason, these two processes will work for that also. The Massanutten Bacon Candle will burn for a comparable time of a regular wax candle of the same size. It just won’t have the girly smell.

Keep your fork



New at Farming

We were in Rural King, a farm supply store similar to a Fleet and Farm, the other day and had to stop and admire the baby chicks for a few minutes. For some odd reason, this story popped into my mind.

A northern city slicker moved down here to the Massanutten Mountains and decided to take up farming as to become self-sufficient. He heads to the local Rural King and tells the man, “Give me a hundred baby chicks.” The RK counts out 100 straight run chicks, places them in a box and the city slicker heads home.

A week later the city slicker returns and says, “Give me two hundred baby chicks.” Again, the RK associate complies.

Again, a week later the same city slicker returns to Rural King. This time he says, “Give me five hundred baby chicks.”

“Wow!” the RK man replies, “You must really be doing well!”

“Naw,” says the city slicker with a sigh. “I’m either planting them too deep or too far apart!”

Keep your fork

Other Poultry For Your Flock

My granddad was a rural mail carrier in northwest Iowa for over 40 years. My Dad was his substitute carrier for many of those years until he was appointed postmaster. Back then, most farms had a poultry flock that not only provided eggs and meat for home use but also provided grocery money when excess eggs were sold. Every spring a lot of these farmers ordered their chicks from hatcheries that shipped them in 100 count, ventilated cartons via the postal service. I couldn’t wait for spring to arrive so that I could ride along with Grandpa or Dad with a back seat full of peeping baby chicks. Seeing dozens of cartons full of chicks the other day at Rural King, a farm supply outlet, reminded me of those enjoyable times I spent on ‘the route’.

Baby Chicks, A Sure Sign Of Spring and More Baby Chicks, A Sure Sign Of Spring were two posts that dealt with chickens for your poultry flock. This post will give you some ideas of other types of poultry that could be a fit for your small  poultry flock.

Broad Breasted White Turkey – is the most common domesticated, fast growing turkey used for meat. Besides having great feed conversion, it is easy to quickly dress and clean. I had one of these white feathered turkeys dress out at 52 pounds.

Orlopp Broad Breasted Bronze Turkey – has the coloring of a wild turkey. It is a fast growing bird and a great choice for turkey meat.

Pheasant – Sometimes called a common pheasant, the Chinese Ringneck pheasant is a great meat bird. It can also be used for training hunting dogs or released and hunted. Check your state laws before purchasing.

French Pearl Guinea – is a game bird that is great at alerting against predators in the area. It does an excellent job at controlling insects. There are guinea recipes available for those wanting to consume the meat.

Bantams – are colorful and great for using as ‘cluck’ hens. These ‘setters’ are a good addition to a farm flock or used as show birds for 4-H projects. They are a variety of colors and plumage in this type of poultry.

White Pekin Duck – is the most common choice for duck meat. They are fast growing, docile, and a great egg producer. My grandmother used the eggs for baking. This white feathered bird is a good addition for your all-purpose flock.

Rouen Duck – is almost the same color as a Mallard but are much larger and more domesticated. These birds are good foragers and a moderate egg producer for your baking and eating needs.

Khaki Campbell Duck – has a lovely khaki color to its plumage. It is a calm duck with high egg production. Another good choice for a farm flock.

Indian Runner Duck – is a good choice if you want to add a little uniqueness to your farm flock. This ‘penguin’ duck tends to run rather than waddle like most other ducks. This gray/brown feathered duck is a great egg producer and forager for your all around flock needs.

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More Baby Chicks, A Sure Sign of Spring

I’ve mentioned Phil Plummart, my college Poultry Production professor, in a previous post somewhere along the line. Each spring when I see the baby chicks starting to show up in farm supply stores, I think back to what he tried to teach us. He loved and lived poultry and tried as hard as he might to instill that love in all of his students. Some, if not most of us, were taking his class because it was a requirement in our major. It wasn’t until much later that some of us realized that he had taught us much more than facts about poultry production. Without us realizing it, he taught us that if we wanted to succeed in our chosen occupation we had to love what we were doing and inspire our students to ‘learn’ even though they might fight us tooth and nail.

Baby Chicks, A Sure Sign of Spring consisted of eight egg producing breeds in what is called ‘Standard Birds’. This post contains six breeds in the ‘Rare Birds’ category of egg layers and 2 breeds of ‘Meat Birds’. Hopefully, there will be a third post consisting of a few thoughts on other types of poultry you may want to consider adding to your home flock.

Rare Birds

Araucana – Ameraucana Strain – are good producers of various colored eggs including blue, green, pink and olive drab. These active and friendly birds vary in both color and size. Some have whiskers and others may have muffs of feathers covering their ears. Being very cold hardy, these chickens will fit into most flocks.

Black Jersey Giant – These dual purpose birds are moderate, consistent layers with heavy body weight lay brown eggs. They are slow-growing but under certain circumstances the roosters can reach 13 pounds while the hens can reach 10 to 11 pounds. This breed has a calm temperament and is very cold hardy.

Buff Orpinaton – is the breed to add to your flock if you are looking for birds with a mild disposition and a tendency to brood and hatch their own chicks. This old favorite is a very good brown egg producer and is very cold hardy. Their colored plumage and docile temperament makes a good breed if you have young children.

Golden Laced Wyandotte – is the breed to add to your flock if you want some uniqueness to your birds. They have beautiful brown to red plumage, are fair to good producers of brown colored eggs.These birds are slower growing but have a large body weight when fully grown. They are docile and very cold tolerant.

Light Brahma – is another unique, stately, attractive bird with feathered feet. They are both cold and heat tolerant and are good producers of a lighter brown colored egg. These birds are easily handled and make a good addition to any flock.

Silver Laced Wyandotte – is a breed with white feathers with black edging called ‘lacing’. These birds are a fair to good producer of brownish eggs. This attractive, wide bodied breed is docile, very cold hardy and a good addition to any flock.

Meat Birds

Freedom Rangers – fall between the fast growing white broilers and the slow-growing heritage breeds. These broilers have red feathers and will reach 5 to 6 pounds in 9 to 11 weeks. If you want to raise birds with tender meat under pasture conditions, these good foragers are the birds for you.

Jumbo Cornish Rock Cross – is the breed that is  great for either fryers or roasters. They are bred for quick growth, broad breasts, thighs and legs. These birds will be ready in 6 to 8 weeks with a feed conversion of about 2 pounds of feed per pound of gain. To prevent stress on their legs, these white feathered birds are bred to grow faster after the first 4 to 5 weeks. If you want a fast growing broiler, here’s the breed to consider.

Keep your fork

Baby Chicks, A Sure Sign of Spring

Spring is the time of year when most farm supply stores have baby chicks huddled together in the wood shavings under heat lamps in stock tanks. I still have fond memories of my Mother working with her ‘babies’ out in the brooder house. It’s been quite a few years since the Pickle Queen and I have raised chickens. When we lived on the farm near Pierpont, SD we had a small laying flock that supplied not only our needs but the needs for many neighbors as well. We had the White Leghorn as it was the only breed that the hatchery in Aberdeen hatched out. Any of these eight ‘standard bird’ breeds are excellent choices for your laying flock. Watch for future posts on ‘Rare Birds’ for egg production, Meat Birds and other poultry for your consideration.

Amberlink – is a hybrid part of the ISA Brown family (another layer, see below) which is slightly larger when mature. It is a strong producer of large, dark brown eggs, is an excellent egg producer and is hardy. The Amberlink  is your best choice for butchering after egg production stops.

Barred Rock – is a long time favorite for the backyard flock. It has reliable hardiness, consistency of brown egg production and lovely plumage. Its large body and a calm demeanor makes it an excellent choice to add to your flock.

Black Australorp – is a very good brown egg producer with a quiet disposition. It has a large body with lovely black plumage with a green sheen. Being an excellent choice for a dual purpose flock, its cold and heat tolerance along with its early maturity, the Black Australop deserves consideration for inclusion in your flock.

Black Sex Link – is the best of two breeds, the Barred Rock and Rhode Island Red. It is an excellent brown egg producer with a large body making it another dual purpose breed. It is fairly hardy and has a calm temperament. It would make an excellent addition to any flock.

ISA Brown – All other egg laying breeds of chickens are compared and judged to the ISA Brown which produces about 60% of the worlds brown eggs. They are brown in color, have excellent egg production, low feed conversion, excellent egg size, are very hardy and are docile although they can get pecky with age.

Red Cross – This color sex-able breed (female chicks are red while male chicks are yellow) is a cross between a Rhode Island male and a Columbian female. The Red Cross is fairly hardy, a quiet, easy to handle breed that are excellent producers of rich brown colored eggs

Rhode Island Red – is an old-time favorite for poultry producers with their impressive body size, consistent brown egg production. They are both hot and cold tolerant. The females are considered to be docile while the roosters may be aggressive. The Rhode Island Red is perfect for an all around flock and is an excellent choice for a cross breeding program.

White Leghorn – is a breed that gives you high, consistent quality, optimal egg weight along with good shell strength egg production. This white egg producer has a somewhat flighty temperament but is heat tolerant. Its modest feed conversion along with all the good qualities mentioned with its eggs makes it a profitable egg producer for your flock.

Keep your fork