Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Hand Crafted Bales, Man.

Do you remember the little white chicks that hatched here, back in June?  Aren't they pretty birds now?  Two handsome roosters like their pappa, Poncho, and two graceful hens.  This kind of hen starts laying eggs early, so I expect they may be laying eggs somewhere I haven't found yet.  I'm glad to have some more of the white leghorn hens in the flock, since their mother and aunts are past their most productive years.  The roosters are free to a good home, if you know of anyone who wants a white leghorn rooster.  

I paused the other day to take a picture of our hay baling equipment after Brandon finished baling the giant piles I raked up.  The pull behind trail mower is what Brandon uses to cut the grass.  The big green rake with an old tarp (and our muscles) is our hay collection system.  The baler box that Brandon built is still working like a charm.  It's quiet and meditative work to make the bales.

And here, amidst all the barn detritus, is our collection of hand made hale bales!  Not bad, right?  I estimate that we have at least twenty-five bales of hay.  You can see that the hay on the bottom of the stack, from our earlier efforts, has dried to a different color than the most recent hay, which is the greener bales on the top.  Brandon and I really enjoy our hay making experiment.  We think it's funny to tell people about what we are doing and see what kind of reaction we get.  Real farmers can barely contain their eye rolls!  

When I told my horse owning friend about how we were making our own hay, he explained that I could buy hay good enough for a donkey for a couple of bucks per bale, and if we bought the big round bales, it would be even cheaper.  Yes, but these are hand crafted bales, man.  My donkey gets home grown, organic, hand mixed, yuppie hay, that's been sun dried and hand turned, then baled to a size specifically to suit my arm strength.  Hay baled with love, even!  I'm sure this kind of hay would be very expensive, because if I were to sell you one of my bales, I would want more than a couple of dollars!     

The pear tree lost about a third of it's crown early this year, when a giant branch broke off.   The trunk is more hole that not, and has ants.  Brandon started talking about cutting it down before it falls on the house.  I don't even like to think about it.  It's been dropping pears all summer, but they were so small I kept waiting for the pears to grow as big as the past two years before I admitted that this year's pears are small ones, and it's time to harvest.  

The summer's experimental gardens taught me a lot about what the garden soil is capable of, and what type of insect pests are going to be the biggest challenges.  I think the best thing I can do for my future gardening self is to add as much organic matter to the clay soil as I can.  I raked up an entire load of rotten pears and dumped it for the chickens, who are fenced in the garden now.  I think I'll keep them there through the winter, which should give everything a good chicken poo fertilizer.  Now that Rufus is here, it won't be long before I'll have the garden coated in organic matter.  

The chickens might be locked in the garden, but they have self serve sunflowers, corn, and grain sorghum.  

They've already eaten most of the sunflowers and corn, and are just beginning to work on the sorghum seeds.  

What did we produce at our little farm this year?  Several things I tried didn't work out (pumpkins and peas) or I didn't follow through with (I never harvested the rhubarb, potatoes, buckwheat, or kale).  But the chicken food crops did well (sunflowers, grain sorghum, corn).  We had enough tomatoes from five plants that we ate our fill and had some to spare. We got to eat three melons, which is a first for us.  The basil never thrived, but the zinnias did.  The thyme plants disappeared entirely.   I got enough green beans to save the seeds for next year, plus those I ate raw.  We picked wild blackberries for cobblers, and now we have pears and apples.  With these things, a freezer full of chicken we raised here, and more eggs than we can eat, I'm pretty satisfied with the growing season, but I'm looking forward to the next one too! 

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