Thursday, March 23, 2006

Haymaking on a small southern livestock farm

On a livestock farm, hay is a good thing to have. In this area (North Central Florida) hay is often divided into two types; cow hay and horse hay.

Cow hay is usually grass hay in big round bales. What this term really means is that the hay is not good enough to be horse hay. It could be moldy, weedy, or old. Cows will eat most anything.

Horse hay is usually in small square bales. Grass hay can be horse hay, but it must be first rate grass hay, fresh, weed free, and not rained on.

Ocala Florida is just south of here. That area is much like Western Kentucky, lots of thoroughbred racehorses behind board fences and housed in barns that prosperous people would be proud to call home. Price is not an issue with hay for such horses, but it must be top quality. Very few of these horse farms produce their own hay.

Commercial Production

I’ve had a chance to observe how a commercial hay operation runs because one is located just across that road from our place. Fields are planted, in this case with Bermuda grass and treated with lime and fertilizer as needed. As many as five cuttings a year can be made, if rain is timely and hurricanes stay away. One year in five everything goes right.

Putting up hay here is a mad race to beat the rain. The window is always small and uncertain. During the summer we get an afternoon thunderstorm most days. No one can make hay in 24 hours. Across the road they can have hay in the barn 48 hours after it is cut.

This takes a small fortune in equipment. They cut with a huge mower conditioner late in the day. Before noon next day they are in the field with hay tedders, implements that fluff up the hay to make it dry faster. They usually have more than one of these in the field at a time. Early the second day the tedders are back.

They bale the outside and near any tree islands with a round baler. A very large tractor has a set of wheel rakes on the front and a big round baler behind. It does the whole job in one pass. This is used as cow hay, presumably because the edges of the field contain too many weeds to make horse hay.

The rest of the field is worked with three tractors at the same time. One pulls a wheel rake and the other two pull small square balers.

Behind each baler is and accumulator, a trailer like device that, as the name implies, accumulates a group of bails (nine I think) and then sets them off in a neat stack.

Late in the day a big semi truck comes in and the bale stacks are loaded on to it with a tractor that has a special front loader attachment.

If it rains at any point, work stops. When it dries out everything is put up in big round bales, cow hay, all of it.


For a small producers like me it is obviously not practical to produce hay this way. Most small holders try to make a deal on shares. This is where you contract with someone to come and bale your ground with his equipment and then take a share of the crop.

It is getting more and more difficult to find a deal like this that is good for both parties. For this to be profitable for the guy doing the baling it needs to be pretty close to what was described above in scale and quality. I talked about it with my neighbor across the road and he was not at all interested. My fields are too small and my grass wouldn’t give the sort of yield he needed (Pensacola Bahia). It would take him too much time to produce too little crop.

Unless you know someone who wants to do you a favor, the best you can hope for is to hire a custom operator, not on shares but some price per bale, that will come when they can get there. There is little chance that they will get to you just when the grass is at exactly the right stage of growth and when the rain holds off for a spell. The best you can hope for is cow hay, probably not very good cow hay, and fairly expensive to boot.

There is also the risk that your man will just not be able to get to you after all. He may have mechanical problems, the weather could be too wet, or he may have just made more promises than he could keep. Then you have rank tall grass up to your ears and no hay at all.

Just buy it

Most farms my size just buy hay. They have cattle so they buy cow hay. They also use stockpiled forage and do whatever else they can to make the pasture last as long as possible. This works but even so the cattle will have lost quite a bit of condition by spring.

I have mostly sheep and only a few head of cattle. I need something better than cow hay. Up till now I’ve been using supplemental grain to make up the difference. I could have bought horse hay instead. The problem with this is that it is expensive. Grain is not cheap here; it must be shipped all the way from the Midwest. Shelled corn costs about 10 cents a pound, $5.00 for a 50-pound bag. Horse hay costs about $5.00 a bale.

Even when purchasing feed, I still need to do something with all that grass. When the grass grows, it grows much faster than the animals can eat it. To graze off all the grass at peak growth would take a stocking rate close to that of a commercial feedlot. I don’t even want to think about paying the off-season feed bill for a mob like that.

Typically the extra grass is cut and left to rot. This must either be hired or done. The first year here we hired it done. Last year I bought a small farm tractor and did it myself.

Do it yourself

I did all sorts of research on how to make hay in smaller quantities for less money than is done commercially.

I looked into loose hay. I read articles in old issues of Mother Earth News (from the early 70’s) that described how to cut the roadside ditch with a scythe and stuff the clippings into an 55 gallon drum to form a bale.

I came to the conclusion that if I have unlimited money for equipment I don’t need much labor. If I have unlimited labor I don’t need much equipment or money. I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t have unlimited anything.

I’ll do it myself

As I mentioned before, I bought a small farm tractor last year. It is used for all sorts of things aside from making hay, but I’m using it for hay as well. It is a 20-horse power (17 PTO horse power) diesel with four-wheel drive. It is Japanese built and about 15 years old. Anything smaller would be a lawn mower. When I bought it I also got a rotary cutter (Bush Hog, but not that brand name).

Any implement dealer will tell you that this tractor is too small to run a hay baler. They will also tell you that a hay baler costs something like $20,000. Both these things are true if we are talking about a new hay baler.

When I was growing up my dad had an old 1950’s International tractor that didn’t have too many more horsepower than my tractor does. He also had an old square baler (I don’t remember the brand) that didn’t even use the tractor PTO, it had it’s own small gasoline engine. The neighbor used a similar baler with a Ford 8n, which is smaller than the tractor I have now.

So I went and asked some old friends about this. By old friends I don’t mean I’ve known these guys a long time, I mean they are old, both in their late seventies. Both had farmed most of their lives and enjoyed sharing what they know. They said that I had plenty enough tractor to run one of the older model balers, even a PTO model. When I asked how it would make it through a real thick cutting, they told me to “Go real slow”.

They said they were still common enough even if they had not been used for a while. They agreed to look at any prospects I found, they knew the difference between and old machine that had some life left in it and junk, I wasn’t sure I could tell.

I found one and bought it. It needed some work but my friends assured me it was sound. They helped me fix it up, mostly a matter of greasing things and lubricating lots of dried out chains. It got a few things welded on and the knot tiers adjusted up. By the time this all got done, last summer was gone, but I still put up about 250 bales at the very end of the year.

Here are some of the details.

To make hay this way you need:

1) A tractor
2) Some way to cut the grass
3) A rake to form windrows
4) The baler.

I paid $1000 for the baler. I spent about $300 more getting it fixed. I’m not counting the time I spent on this myself, and the old guys helping me were very generous with their time as well. I did pay them some, but not near what they were worth.

When I bought the baler the seller included a ground driven side delivery rake for free. He said he had never used it, didn’t know if it could be fixed, but it was free. We drug it home and tried to fix it, but shouldn’t have bothered; it was junk. We would weld something, go half a lap around the field and break something else. In the end I bought a brand new wheel rake for about $800. No worries.

There is no-end of tools that can be used to cut grass. Traditionally hay is cut with a cycle bar mower. Now days drum mowers are more common. One mower, the rotary (bush hog) type mower is what I already had and most everyone who has a tractor seems to own.

A rotary mower is not good for hay because it chops the grass up into pieces that are too small to make good hay. The body of the mower is a steel box and the grass is held inside the box like food in a kitchen blender and whacked up into tiny pieces before it gets spit out the rear of the mower.

What I did was cut one side out of the body of the mower. On my mower the blade spins counter clockwise. I cut the left side (facing the front of the tractor) off the box that forms the body of the mower. I knew to do this and that it would work because this is what we used on my dads farm when I was growing up. It cuts the grass and immediately spits it out before it gets chewed up too much. It can then be raked and baled without problem. This is just for grass hay; I don’t know how it would work with clover or alfalfa.

This is older equipment. I do not expect it to be as trouble free as new equipment would be. For my farm though it is appropriate. I have about 30 acres of pasture and need about 1000 bales a year. My land is contiguous so there is no need for me to transport equipment over the roadways.

So now I can make my own hay. I have a little over $2000.00 in equipment not counting the tractor and mower. Buying $2000 worth of good hay in small square bales would not quite fill my barn. Baling the hay myself is a lot of work of course, but this way I know what I have. I know where it came from and how it was grown. I know for sure that it has not been rained on.

So to paraphrase my old friend, the way to make hay without spending a jillion dollars on equipment or working like a gang of coolies is to “Just go real slow”.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Farm Work

Another good weekend here at dog patch south. We (Mr. Cooney was here again Saturday) did a fairly major upgrade on the sheep handling facilities. We put in a plywood floor at the side of the single file chute, lowered the side of the cute, and added a guillotine gate.

I did a post about the facilities a while ago so I’ll just update the diagram I did then. Click to enlarge.

What is being built here is the world’s first wheelchair accessible sheep handling facility.

Of course it won’t work well if used by someone shorter, taller, older, younger, or more psychologically fit that I am.

I love custom tools.

I also got the garden beds planted. I have an area with just corn, an area with just cowpeas, and an area with cowpeas planted between the cornrows.

All this is very small scale. It is an experiment to see if it makes sense to grow the extra feed I use to get the ewes through lambing.

Friday, March 17, 2006


When I was growing up, I hated school. I recall thinking that being required to go there was just the same as having a police department cruiser show up at the door, and being escorted to homeroom, doing the perp walk the whole way.

A lot of that was delusions of persecution, and I’ve never met a teenager who didn’t have a huge dose of that, but what they feel persecuted about varies from kid to kid.

From my point of view at the time, school was pointless and deadly dull. I suffered through as best I could when I was younger. By the time I was in high school I found all sorts of ways to keep it from being dull much of the time, but of course it was still pointless. The school did not at all approve of how I was preventing boredom, and they were unaware of most of it.

My dad had a cattle farm where I worked in the summer and during breaks. I also went on farm calls with the veterinarian as a helper when I could. I knew how to work and enjoyed it. This was not pointless. The cattle ate the hay I put up in the summer. Doctoring the animals helped them to survive, usually.

I would tell my dad that I wanted to farm. He would argue against it. Said it would break my hart and leave me broke.

My dad and me, about 1974

Understand that my dad was a farm kid himself. He did not make a living farming though, he had a nice safe income from the University and kept the farm as a hobby and as a way to try and keep his six sons out of jail. “It’s this or keep a bail bondsman on retainer.” He would joke.

He thought I should become a vet. That would only require something like eight more years of school. I could imagine no worse fate than being stuck in school, any sort of school. Even pop knew that wasn’t going to happen.

I was reading something recently that got me thinking about this. It touched on the difference between school and learning. I never had a problem with learning, I enjoyed learning things, it was school I despised. Of course I didn’t think about it in these terms back then.

People pack their kids off to school because they have no other use for them. Long ago when people did subsistence type farming or some sort of artisan occupation a kid could make a real contribution to the rest of the family. In the modern world they’re not good for much.

Schools don’t have much to do with learning except accidentally, there for warehousing people (kids) that are not useful elsewhere.

When I think about what I learned growing up, the only thing I’m sure I learned in school was contempt for authority. So I guess it wasn’t entirely useless, just mostly useless.

I remember being told to reverse direction after the first lap around the field with the hay mower, so as to lay the grass down more evenly to dry. I remember going to the sale barn with my dad and him explaining how it all worked and what everyone was doing. I remember the lesson on how to safely cross a fence line while carrying a shotgun.

I know they don’t teach these things in public school.

Pop understood the difference between formal education and learning far better that I did in those days, probably because he spent so much time in academia. One time during one of those “What will you do when you grow up” discussions he recommended against going to college to figure that out. He recommended reading and travel. He said I could do a lot worse than reading philosophy and working as a deck hand on a freighter. This was just an example, I’ve read a lot of philosophy but I’ve never actually worked as a deckhand.

He said “You know how to work and you know how to learn, you’ll do fine”.

Well, I took my senior trip all the way to South East Asia (no, I was not in the army), and learned a few things I would have never figured out on my own. When I got back and was no longer required to go to any sort of school, I gradually learned to use school (University at least) like a library card.

When there was something I wanted to learn, sometimes the way to learn it was to take a class. Most of the time it was sort of OJT. I’ve been to schools of one sort or another many times since then, but always for some specific reason. I still don’t have any sort of degree and don’t have any need of one.

I’ve learned more in the last couple of years on this little farm than I have in all the formal schooling I’ve ever had. I guess if I ever stop learning I will have started on that long proverbial dirt nap.


As promised, a better picture of the peeps.

These are Golden Comets, A.K.A red sexlinks, hatched Monday.

This little camera in the cell phone works better than a crayon, but only just. This on was taken with the Nicon.

As allways click on the picture to make it bigger.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

More chickens arrive

My order for day old peeps arrived this morning. The Post Office called just after 7:00 AM. They always sound a bit frantic when this happens, I don’t think they like getting packages that make noise.

I wasn’t completely ready, but near enough. I stopped at the hardware store and got some chick starter feed on the way to the Post Office.

After several days of temperatures that were downright hot, it rained late yesterday and then got cold. It was about 50 degrees and windy this morning. I hope the brooder keeps them warm enough. It should be OK.

I’ll get some better pictures soon.

Speaking of witch, I’ll try to get a good shot of the pasture. That rain was just what we needed; it is all the sudden green as Ireland out there.

We now officially have grass, and all the ruminants, as well as Gracie, the old red mare, very much approve.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Fisking Orian Samuelson

The television program “This Week in Agribusiness” containes a spot where co-host Orian Samuelson makes an editorial comment. The spot is called “Samuelson Sez” and it is a regular feature of the program. This weekend (March 25-26, 2006) it was about the NAIS.

I replayed the segment and created a transcript that I believe is accurate (thank god for TiVo) because I wanted to respond to it.

Please understand that while I disagree with Mr. Samuelson on this issue I don’t dislike him or for that matter even know him other than to see him from time to time on TV. I enjoy the program and watch it as regularly as I watch any TV program (which isn’t very).

So here we go,

Orian Samuelson:

I get letters, I get emails. Let me share just a few quotes.

“Why do I have to do this?”

“It should just be required of the big farmers and ranchers, not a little guy like me.”

“It’s just another case of government sticking its nose in my business, ‘big brother’, if you please.”

“Since I’m not the one who wants this, I sure as ---- am not going to pay for it!”

This is just a sampling of comments I’ve received over the past couple of months from people who are opposed to a national animal identification act.

And big or small producers. It’s the small producers, maybe the hobby farmers who have just discovered that even though they have just five or six animals this national animal id act will apply to them. And the concern over paying for it comes from larger producers.

Personally I guess I fall somewhere between a hobby farmer and a very small commercial producer. As it happens I keep rather more extensive records than what would be required by NAIS but, and here’s the rub, these records are MINE. They are for my use although I don’t mind sharing them with customers and/or suppliers where that’s relevant.

I have no relationship with the Department of Agriculture at either the National or State level nor do I particularly want one.

I regard the prospect of some clipboard toting government employee showing up on my porch about the same way as I would drought, flood, wildfire, or hurricane. There is almost no chance of anything good coming from it, and the downside goes from bad to fatal for my little farming enterprise.

I don’t doubt that most government ag department types are good folks that would like to be helpful, even to me.

But anyone who has ever dealt with government bureaucracy of any sort knows only too well that some of these folks are simply petty tyrants that seem to enjoy making life difficult for those they “serve”.

They especially don’t like dealing with unusual producers that do not fit well onto the forms that government types are forever filling out.

The Ag department would much rather deal with a small number of big producers than a large number of small producers. This same large number of small producers would rather not deal with the Ag department at all, and up to now they have never had to.

Big producers and those associated with big agribusiness have staffs of lawyers to protect them from these problems. I do not.

Please understand, I’m as proud as I can be of my little farming operation. My place is clean and my stock is healthy, happy even, I dare say.

So my problem is not so much the expense, except as a matter of principal, being forced to bankroll something I disagree with and that actually does me harm. More on that later. My problem has to do with privacy.

I don’t want to be issued a “premise Id” and to be entered into some big database somewhere. There is nothing secret about what I’m doing, but it is private. To register something is to give up at least some measure of control of that thing.

If I believe that for example, firearms registration is a bad idea pushed by people who are being less than honest about what they would do with the information, and I do believe that, then I want no part of the NAIS or any such scheme.

I don’t entirely trust the USDA folks, I’m afraid of them.

As to expense, I can sure see how a small to medium size producer, say someone with one or two hundred cow calf pairs, would object to the expense. This poor guy buys retail, sells wholesale and pays the freight both ways. He probably sells into the commodity system. The big agribusiness companies grab guys like this by the ankles, hold them upside down, and shake them till all the change falls out of their pockets as a regular part of doing business. It’s been going on like this for decades.

Orian Samuelson:

So you know, I am 100% in favor of a national animal identification act. That doesn’t mean I like it any more than I like standing in the long security lines at airports waiting to board the airplane. The world has changed, and I’ll put up with the inconvenience to know that somebody carrying a bomb will probably not get on the plane.

The world has changed for livestock producers too. The ability to travel, to spread disease, concern over foot and mouth and bird flu and mad cow disease now makes it vitally important that, if we do have an outbreak we’re able to trace the source of that outbreak and contain it as quickly as possible. That’s why we need the national animal identification act.

OK, we all knew this was coming. Airport security is a bit off topic but the example is given here as an illustration of a “necessary evil”.

Recall that airport security was not created as a response to 9/11, it had been in place for decades although what effect it had, other than making travel an even less pleasant experience than it otherwise would be, has never been clear, at least to me.

The fact that it was stepped up after 9/11 does not necessarily mean that air travel was made safer; it did however demonstrate that the authorities had responded to the traveling public’s demand that they “Do something”.

Likewise the ability to travel and the existence of various animal diseases did not come to be as a result of 9/11.

If what is meant by “The world has changed” is that we now know that there are people out there who have it as a goal to murder large numbers of randomly selected civilians, and I believe that’s what it means, then we need to address a couple of issues.

If terrorists object to our way of life, how much of that way of life are we willing to change in response to the threat. At what point have we given up so much that the terrorists have won.

Next, what can we do that will actually help counteract the threat.

Imagine Osama or some similar goblin gets hold of bottle of gruesome black death and decides to introduce it into the American food supply in order to kill off as many people as possible. What do you think they would do:

1) Sneak past my pickup truck with the NRA bumper sticker, past my 100+ pound livestock guard dogs, to get into my back paddock, the one I can see from my office window, in order to get my polled Hereford heifer to take a big old snort of instant death.


2) Go out to a Cargill feed lot in western Kansas where they have some 10,000 head on feed and dump it into the water supply.

If we want to discuss possible safety measures, then we should discuss the decentralization of the food supply.

Clearly the sort of concentration of foodstuffs and the ease of spreading disease with such large numbers of animals so close together is a huge risk in big feedlots, giant poultry houses, and mega hog operations.

My personal opinion is that making a large disruptive change like dispersing large concentrations of animals just to counter a threat that has not occurred is an extreme response to a theoretical problem.

Something tells me that Tyson’s Corporation and ADM would agree with me (that dispersal is an extreme response), but if we are really interested in protecting the food supply, it should at least be put on the table.

Naturally occurring disease has been going on since the invention of agriculture and I’m not aware of a single example where something like NAIS would have helped. It seems to me that if such examples existed those who argue in favor of NAIS would site them regularly.

From the prospective of protecting the food supply, it looks to me like NAIS is a solution in search of a problem.

Here is one result I’ve noticed from 9/11. Everyone, myself included, sites those tragic events as having “proven” whatever it was they strongly believed in before 9/11. It does not matter what the belief, 9/11 underscores it.

I can argue, as I did earlier, that we should protect the food supply by breaking up large concentrations of livestock. This not only sounds plausible, but it has the added benefit of causing trouble and expense to someone else, I don’t need to change a thing.

The big agricultural oligopoly is doing the same thing with NAIS. They want to look like they are “Doing Something” while pushing the hassle and expense to someone else.

This last bit of the Samuelson quote is I think where we start to see what the issue really is.

Orian Samuelson:

There’s another reason too for producers. Because your customers, weather it be McDonalds, Burger King, or foreign buyers like Japan are demanding that they know the source of the meat that gets on the menu or into the meat counter so once again if there is a recall they can get directly to the source.

Inconvenient yes, annoying yes, time consuming yes, but in the long run it could save the livestock and poultry industry in the United States.

My thoughts on Samuelson sez…

My customers are not McDonalds, Burger King, or foreign buyers like Japan.

I sell directly to consumers. If someone has a problem with my product, they don’t need a database to tell them where the product came from, they know me. Most of them have physically been to my farm.

Some foreign countries including Japan have a long history of protectionist trade practices. I have no faith the NAIS if it was implemented would change their behavior. Likely they would simply shift their argument to the next excuse.

If big buyers like the fast food chains want special paper work done by their suppliers, they can refuse to buy from sources that don’t comply with their requirements. They can offer premiums to get what they want. That will cost money, but this is America. At some price someone will sell you what you want to buy. This is as it should be.

But here’s the deal, if everyone is forced to do it there is no premium. If everyone is forced to do it then the expense and hassle of dealing with two types of inputs, source verified and not in this case, can be avoided.

People who buy lamb, poultry, or eggs from me do so in whole or in part because they prefer food produced by a small-scale artisan production model rather than that produced by a big industrial production model. They do not entirely trust the food oligopoly to supply the sort of clean and wholesome food they require. They may be worried unnecessarily, but they are the buyers and, like I said, this is America, they can do that.

There is no way that ADM or Cargill or Tyson can compete with that. Unless of course they force me out of the marketplace and replace me with a slick marketing campaign.

They would claim of course that they would never do such a nasty thing. Perhaps they would not. I’d have to admit to delusions of grandeur if I thought that they worried about a tiny little operation like mine. They have millions of customers and I have just a few.

Still they are looking at some expenses that are not tiny. And there are lots of guys like me.

Does the livestock and poultry industry really need saving, and if so, from who?

Weekend Farmer

When things go right I feel like I’ve accomplished something after a weekend of playing farmer. I play “at” farmer some during the week as well, but only for shorter periods of time.

Saturday I had some help, which doesn’t happen too often around here. I ordered a bunch of combination panels and fence posts through my old pall Mr. Cooney who used to run a feed store near here.

The panels are sixteen feet long making them impossible to haul in my little pickup without chopping them up. Mr. Cooney brought them over in his big trailer. He and his hired man then helped me build a little dry lot next to the barn.

Mr. Cooney is seventy-nine years old. If I start now on an exercise and motivational program, I MAY be able to work as hard as he does by the time I’m his age, if I could somehow get younger instead of older for all of those twenty nine years.

Mr. Cooney also has a first name, but it is just not possible for me to address a man nearly thirty years my senior by his first name. I don’t know if that’s a southern thing or not. His wife calls him “Skip” which strikes me as very cute for some reason.

I wanted a place where I can confine the sheep and feed them conveniently. I am killing the grass so there is nothing to eat in the dry lot other than what I provide. This is so I can worm the sheep and allow them to expel the parasites somewhere that won’t just wind up re-infecting them.

As always, click on the picture for a larger view.

The power company came by a while ago trimming tree branches away from the power lines. I got them to dump off a huge pile of shredded trimmings that I’m dumping in the dry lot as mulch. I got that about half done after this picture was taken.

That used up Saturday. Sunday was mostly moving beasties around.

The heifers went into the back paddock. The water tank I stole from back there is set back up and a feed bunk is set up. The paddock is four or five acres and has plenty of grass, but I’m giving them a little soy meal as a boost. They should calf sometime fairly soon.

I had been thinking that spring was here, but we seem to be going right past spring into summer. It’s eighty something degrees and getting green. We could use some rain. Still little blooms and such are popping up everywhere.

These tiny yellow flowers are part of some form of clover that will be everywhere here in the next few weeks if we get enough rain. Then it will die back in the heat.

I set up a paddock to move the rams into where they will have shade, water, and some good fresh grass. We wormed them just as it was getting dark Sunday so they are the first residents of the new dry lot. I would have liked to shear them but we ran out of time.

I also set up the brooder and got it ready for the new peeps that are due here this week. I ordered 25 female and two male Red Sex Links (AKA Golden Comets) from Welp Hatchery.

If this works out the way I hope it will, they will be laying next winter when the other hens slack off and molt.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

White-collar Weenie

I just took this picture, it is the view from my office here at the house.

I’m in here theoretically designing a help desk interface to a SIEMENS HIPATH 4000 telephone switch.

You’d think I’d be smart enough to come up with some justification for being out there rather than in here.

Some times it is just no fun being a white-collar weenie, but it pays well. OK, back to work.

Monday, March 06, 2006

MSA Meeting

On Saturday (03/04/2006) we went to the Spring Meeting of the Meat Sheep Alliance of Florida. It took place at Ruth Taber’s Calovine Farm near Williston, Florida.

The main topic of discussion was lambing. We should start lambing here in about a month. Ruth finished up a bout six weeks ago and had just weaned the majority of her lambs.

Ruth has somewhere around 200 ewes, and at the moment something under 300 lambs.
She has a bit more land than we do, but acre for acre we have better grass.

She has been doing this for about 15 years and has well established facilities, most of which I covet extremely.

She has in her employ an entire squadron of sheep type farm dogs, two well trained border collies for herding and two (or thjree?) Great Pyrenees for guarding.

There were about 50 people present. We all ate large amounts of great lamb stew and yammered at each other endlessly about sheep and all related subjects.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Local Tradition

My neighbor up the road has a farm sign at the corner of her property next to an old horse drawn hay rake as a sort of marker.

I also have a hay rake, not horse drawn, but certainly old and rusty.

So should I get myself a sign and pull the rake up to the road?

I could claim I’m just following local tradition.

I’m guessing it would be cheaper than “properly” disposing of the rake.

It has been replace after I officially declared it “F.U.B.A.R.” last summer.