Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Yard Work

Can you envision a freshly mowed spring lawn covered in the white, soft seed heads of dandelions? I’m not talking about one or two just ushering the new warmth of spring, but so many it just ruins the look of yesterday’s effort.

Well now keep that same image in your mind, except substitute the fluffy balls of the dandelions with over 60 fluffy white Texas A&M quail! Yeah that was kinda what it was like around here this morning. When we decided last Saturday to move the breeders from their winter sanctuary in our garage to their new summer home I broke one of the doors on the colony cage. Due to pending darkness, I didn’t really take the time to fix it. Instead, I just used some wire to keep it closed until Wednesday when I was going to construct permanent summer housing; after all, what were the chances they would even find the vulnerability let alone exploit it? Come on! They have all they could ever want and need: fresh food and water twice a day, lots of room, a deep wide dusting tub refilled with sand once a day and nice tin roof to keep them dry. They just don’t appreciate all the effort we go through for them. LOL

The only bright side to the whole adventure was ……….. (sorry I had to look over my shoulder to make sure I wasn’t going to get slapped in the back of the head) ….. I was in the house while Malita and Archie chased, caught and put the escapees back in their pen! Before everybody starts booing me, I did catch two of them and put them back up. After I got home this afternoon I spotted the sole hold-out and Archie quickly cornered her and returned her to the pen. Now if this same event would have happened in the winter with snow on the ground, they would have had a better chance of staying undetected and actually had a real chance of getting to NASA.

How do I know that is where they were headed? Because they must have seen it written in the stars last night that their eggs I sent to Mars were going to hatch today and they wanted to be there!

Congratulations to The Martian Chick and her newly hatched babies from all of us here at Rich Heritage Farm!

Y’all Come Back!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Gone Quackers

Here's our little flock of ducks, 8 Khaki Campbells and one Silver Appleyard. Well Lucy, Lunch (both Campbells) and Oscar (Appleyard) have been giving us an egg a day each almost everyday since Feb.

Oscar was the only duckling we had to hatch from our fist attempt at hatching. We just figured Oscar would be a boy because of all the aggravating things it did, but we were wrong and she is named Oscar. The Campbells came from Ideal and two of the males have crest. I guess the crest look can kinda grow you; however, I don't think I would ever order them on purpose. If you order only crested they will only send crested, if you just order ducklings they won't guarantee you won't get crested ones mixed in the order.

Having more drakes than hens is a bad thing as they chase poor Lucy and Lunch all over the place. We are not exactly sure the males have ever had their way with Oscar. We haven't ever even see them try. She's too busy being the boss and also quite a bit bigger then even the males. Her eggs may not be fertile, but we put a couple of them in just to see.

Hopefully in 28 days we will be back in the duckling business.

Y'all Come Back,

Monday, April 6, 2009

Quail --- The Perfect Livestock

The quail egg business boomed yesterday. I made delivery of 18 dozen eggs to a fellow guardsman Sunday at Guard Drill, plus another guardsman picked up another 8 dozen Sunday afternoon. It was great to see them all go, and the best part was I didn’t have to ship them although they are going to homes in Middle Tennessee and Central Kentucky.

As I type these numbers it seems like such an impressive amount of eggs, but it’s not even a full five days worth. My hens are laying an incredible amount of eggs, my 84 hens are laying at least 70 eggs a day with the highest single day lay of 79 eggs. It is absolutely amazing how they lay so many eggs for such a relatively low cost. If the many urban homesteaders who cannot raise chickens could learn about the quail, they could have a cheap very nice alternative for amazing numbers of eggs and an absolutely delicate meat source. The greatest advantage of the coturnix quail is they start laying eggs at six weeks and reach their maximum size by ten weeks. If your looking for the perfect livestock for your homesteading give the quail a long look, you won’t regret it!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

A&Ms Hatched and Strawberries Blooming

Outside of the fact I missed everything today because of Guard Drill. Rich Heritage has continued to produce. The strawberry plants from my FIL's patch started blooming today. The Tristars we ordered are putting on some leaves and actually look like plants now. I believe two of them are goners but we'll just have to wait and see.

On the quail front, we have 33 new additions so far. They are in a small Rubbermaid tub right now awaiting more hatch mates. I was lazy and didn't' set up the brooder cage last night and get everything prepared like I should have. So Malita and Archie set up the tub while I was gone today and it will do until tomorrow after I get back from Drill.
Y'all Come Back!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Our Three Fruit Trees Arrived Today

I have a weakness for green apples. I honestly start scavenging the trees when the apples are no bigger than a golf ball. The more sour they are the better I like them.

We received the beginnings to our little orchard today from Stark Bro's. nursery.

1 Stark Lodi Apple
1 Starkspur UltraMac Apple
1 Starkrimson Sweet Cherry

The Lodi and the UltraMac are supposed to be good pollinators for each other and the Sweet Cherry is self-pollinating.

I know we want be able to go into the fruit stand business with this few trees, but is being just a tad bit selfish in just this one area so bad? LOL!

They sent six lilium asiatic mix bulbs as a free gift. I couldn't find them on their web site, but on a google search, I found them and they are very colorful flowers. I'm sure we will be able to find a place for them.

Y'all Come Back!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

More Quail Eggs Went to a New Home Today

I would like to be able to blame the economy on my reluctance to expand my quail business, but I can't lay the blame there. You see, I really want to provide the best product that can be produced by anyone. I'm sure my adult birds are outstanding products, because a customer can see them and knows exactly what he/she is buying. However, by focusing strictly on the grown birds, I am not reaching a broad enough customer range.

Money is tight these days for the American public in general, and I would offer a guess, that those interested in the same things as Rich Heritage, expect the utmost value for their dollar. So, I limit my businesses potential by not selling hatching eggs or shipping day old chicks. Our first order of day old chickens from a hatchery included a club footed chick. My wife brought her into the house in her own little brooder, named her Patty and nursed her along for a couple weeks, but the little chick still didn't make it. Our first order of ducklings had a spraddle legged duckling in the bunch which didn't make it. I've sorted groups of 80 plus quail chicks and understand how things can be missed, but if it is a beginners first time ordering, will they understand?

My one and only order of eggs came from Missouri and my hatch rate was awful. I did everything just like the guy I ordered them from told me to do. The eggs were viable, we were excited , but alas only one duckling hatched, two died after pipping out of 12 eggs. One bourbon red poult hatched with them out of six eggs. The little duckling drown the poult in the brooder the first day. (I should have known)

We've lost chickens and ducks that were healthy the day before and dead the next. Nature is the ultimate equalizer and no person can compete against her. I was lucky enough to have grown up with livestock and have suffered the loses and know that sometimes things just weren't intended to be. It would have been real easy to quit after these setbacks and blame the suppliers. Thankfully we persevered through those first trials and have what I imagine/hope will be a lifetime of joy with all our birds.

The learning curve swings and some are definitely better than others and some just are lucky. We have been extremely lucky with our quail. We have really had only one bad hatch and it was due to a humidity problem during a very cold dry spell last winter. By that hatch, we had some successful hatches already and were able to diagnose the problem. I will not set eggs in the same conditions again, but at that time I just didn't know any better.

In case I haven't bored you to tears yet, I'll get to the post I intended today.

A really great gentleman came here today from a couple hours away and picked up 120 A&M eggs. He wants to teach his grandson there is more to life than video games. (I think all kids including my own need that lesson) They are going to get chickens and garden as well this summer, and I wish them the best times of their lives. We had a great visit and I think he was impressed with the Texas A&M quail. He will be able to buy the same feed I use so his results should be similar in the finished bird. He could not get over how friendly my birds were and the size of the eggs. I hope this is a good start to lifelong love for his grandson. Oh and what the top of the post had to do with this "I hope they hatch"!

Y'all Come Back!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Plants Set Out in Two Square Foot Gardens

We set out vegetable plants this afternoon. Our little experiment of starting seeds turned out well. As a matter of fact, they performed far above our expectations and grew faster than I thought they would. It was either put them in their permanent home or transplant them to bigger containers. The weather is still a little chilly at night so we are going to cover them at night.
We set out pole beans, cucumbers, squash, zucchinis and okra in one of the 4X8 beds. This bed had been constructed last week; however, we had to put it in place, install weed barrier fabric, mix and fill it with the soil.
40 strawberry plants were set in a 4x10 bed we used for vegetables last year. Some were transplants from my Father In Law's patch and 25 of them were new plants from Stark Bros. Nursery. Hopefully, we will be able to harvest all the berries from the 15 plants from my FIL's, but we plan to pinch most of the blooms off the new plants from Stark Bros. The Stark Bros. are Tristars and we don't have any idea what the others are. We hope they are ever bearing, although if they are just June bearers that will be fine also.
Along with the much larger gardening effort this year, landscaping is a must for this spring. We are planning to incorporate a lot of edible plants into the landscaping. Most herbs are absolutely beautiful and we plan to use them as well as blueberry bushes.
It's still to wet to get any more fencing done, but I'm on Spring Break next week and hopefully will be able to knock most of it out if the weather improves.
Y'all Come Back

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Happy Birthday Archie!

Today is our son's thirteenth birthday!

Jess came home from college to help us celebrate. Archie's grandmother (Momma Judy) treated us all to supper out. Both of my sisters and my nephew joined us for the occasion. We had a great time. The restaurant we went to eat at is the only one in our little town open on weeknights, but the food was excellent as always. His cake was decorated with a football, of course and was really good.

Here is the Rich Heritage bunch: Jess, Archie, Malita and me. I'm sure tomorrow we will look somewhat different as we once again work on our to-do list. It was really nice to take the afternoon off though. Maybe it will recharge us a little. I know I ate enough to need a nap.

Y'all Come Back!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

One Paddock Finished

After another two days, we have our new pig paddock fenced in just before the weather turned for the worst. Although we were dealing with extremely high wind gust we beat the rain. The gate is temporarily attached until we install the next run of field fence from the corner post the gate will permanently attach. We gave a trial run this afternoon with our goats, and they seemed to really like it. It’s only right they get the first use of area, since they were the labor that cleaned the area out in the first place. When we first moved in this area was completely overrun with head high weeds and honey suckle so thick you couldn’t walk through it. Besides we are still a couple months away from getting the pigs.
If you have an overgrown area I highly recommend getting a couple of goats to clear it for you. The goats prefer to eat weeds and broad leaf plants instead of grass. They will eat grass, but they go after all the stuff you want gone first. So when they leave an area it is almost completely free of everything except the grass.
I did manage to get the quail eggs sent to Mission to Mars today. I wanted to send them out yesterday, but by the time I would have had them packed the post office would have been closed. So I collected new eggs today and got them sent off today. It was the first time I have mailed eggs, so I don’t know how they will make the trip. I individually wrapped each one in bubble wrap and put them inside a tissue box and then wrapped the tissue box in bubble wrap also. Finally I placed empty boxes around the main box to take up space in the flat rate USPS box.
Our strawberry plants arrived from Stark Bros. today. My main project will be to get them in their bed tomorrow. All of the plants we started earlier have to be relocated to their new homes pretty quickly also. We couldn’t mix the soil for our square foot gardening system because of the wind this afternoon. We just hope the thunderstorm rolling through tomorrow will make its way quickly without causing any damage.

One of my Dark Cornish hens went broody today for about twenty minutes. We have been letting them out in the afternoons to free range while we work around the place and they have started laying their eggs in an empty horse stable. It's always an Easter Egg hunt around here when we let them out. Well today one decided to sit on three eggs. She looked so motherly all hunkered down on them, so I was just going to let her hatch them. Well that lasted until I fed the others and our top dawg Delaware rooster, (River), started calling the hens to eat. She decided eating was more important today.

Y’all Come Back!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I really hate fencing

After two very long days of working on the fence, we still don't have hardly any new fence up. Saturday we tore down all of the existing 30 year old fence wire that separated the barn from the pasture. Most of this was 5 strand barbwire over field fence. I underestimated how long it takes to take it down and roll it up. We worked until daylight failed us and felt we made a lot of progress.
This morning we started at 8:00 and actually realized the real work that laid before us. The fence had almost rounded corners all the way around that looked weird, but due to the age of the fence we thought it was put in long ago due to the lay of the land. We laid out new straight runs and begin to replace the existing rotted wooden post with new treated posts, and use as many of the "T" post in place as we could. We soon learned why so many of the corners were rounded. Apparently through the years, as the fence posts failed they just sunk new posts and abandoned the broken ends in place. Anybody care to guess exactly were our new post needed to be placed? After struggling trying to dig holes and finally breaking a sheer pin on the p.t.o auger we gave up and moved our new fence line outside of the existing fence.
We finished the day by pulling all the steel post out. Now the weekend is over and we don't have to much above ground. The good news is we now have all the wood post put in; the bad news we still have to pound all steel posts back in on the new line.

Y'all Come Back

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Busy Day

Today was a pretty busy day. I didn’t get home from work until 9:00 last night due to a last minute re-write of a youth program grant. So I had to double time this afternoon. Since my son didn’t have football practice today I had some help. We built three new bed frames for this year’s square foot garden. We made two 4x8’s and one 4x16. We also set-up the outside summer quail grow out hutch.
I ordered 25 strawberry plants from Stark Bros. which still haven’t arrived yet, but I’m not sure that is such a bad thing as long as they arrive healthy. I will add them with anther 50 transplants from my Father in Law’s bed in their new home here.
My FIL came by after he got off work and tried to get my tiller running; however, it was an effort in futility. Even though my main gardening efforts will be the square garden method and aquaponics, I still need the tiller to start our new corn patch. If we don’t get ours running, I’ll just borrow his big rear tine and get the site worked in about half the time. I’m very confident he will get ours running since he loves to tinker with small engines.
This week end will be a none stop work-a-thon. We will start fencing tomorrow. This is a must and can’t be put off any longer. We are putting up new field fence up around the barn, the new pig pen and corral, as well as the 100 yards from the road to the first turn behind the house. The goats have done a wonderful job of cleaning off this part of the fence. I really can’t tell you what’s keeping the horses in the pasture. Apparently, they just like their pasture home. The goats I’m not so sure about! They really like our shrubbery and I’m sure they’ll love my garden beds.
The seeds we started last Saturday have all sprouted with the exception of the pepper plants. From what I understand, they take longer to germinate and warmer soil temperature. I am amazed how much some of them have grown. The pole bean starts are at least four inches tall. Actually I’m amazed anything sprouted at all. I do believe that the work is just as much fun as learning how to do so many new things.
If I knew, I would get so many things crossed off my to-do list by admitting publicly I was procrastinator I would have done it years ago!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Adding Berkshire Pigs

Rich Heritage Farm is expanding into the pasture raised hog business. Berkshire is the breed choice after considering all the heritage breeds. They are not on the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy list as endangered, but they are a true heritage hog, which will work within the intended scope of our goals.
Growing up through my teenage years, commercial farming was our family’s business. We had a 100 cow, cow/calf, herd, a 50 sow feeder pig operation and we row cropped 1200 acres. While I was in the military, the entire operation was dismantled due to economy, and health issues.
My mother and aunt still maintain several acres of land they rent out to a local farmer, but the farm implements, cows and hogs are long gone.
You would think with the farming/animal husbandry experience I obtained growing up it would put me on the fast track to homesteading life. However, I’m about as lost as a ball in tall grass most of the time.
Homesteading principles and even the very livestock are so different from the intense management we used. I have no idea how to manage a two sow grass fed hog endeavor. The hogs we used wouldn’t make it a week in the sunshine; the sows would smash or eat all of their piglets if they weren’t in faring crates. Waste management and all the vaccinations to prevent confinement caused diseases were a constant concern. In other words we didn't make our production fit the pigs, we made the pigs fit our production system.
I have had pretty good luck with our goats, chickens, ducks and quail, although I’ve never had any experience before with them. Absolutely no management ideas, what so ever, so I didn’t have to worry about the way we used to do it. It’s removing all the past practices burned into my brain that will be the challange. I just have to remember, "I don’t want to feed the world!" I only want to be able to feed my family.
I’ve located a Berkshire breeder, who will have feeder pigs ready in a couple of months.
I’m looking forward to starting our little grass fed operation. I’m sure it will be an adventure. Hopefully, we will be able to put pork in our freezer and sell enough feeder pigs locally to pay for the upkeep of sows.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I spoke with my A&M hens this evening!

While I was out feeding this evening, I had a talk with Texas A&M breeders. I explained how their eggs have a very special assignment coming up soon. You see I'm going to be sending 25 eggs to MARS!
You should have all their little heads perk up. The males were crowing and the females were purring and all their eyes were on me. I really thought they were very excited about this monumental task, since I had their undivided attention. I did have their attention, but alas, it was because I was still holding the feeder that I had just filled up. Oh well, I'm still excited.
No, I won't be needing NASA to deliver the eggs, the USPS will be able to handle this delivery. Apparently we have Martians living in New York, so they will be responsible for their space voyage. Since this is my first shipment of eggs, I'm just a little apprehensive about preparing them for the trip. I've just got to do my best and hopefully everything will go good. If not, I'm sure to learn something.
So who knows, the next time you look up and see a light racing through the sky, it might just be quail attempting to conquer the last frontier!

Y'all Come Back!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Starting Seeds

Today, we started seeds for this years garden. I can't wait for spring to get here! In each of the past two weeks there has been days in the 70s, as well as, days with SNOW. I am so tired of winter.
This is our first year starting seeds, so we are keeping our fingers crossed. To stagger the harvest, I thought we would try our hand at starting some seeds now and planting others in the garden like we did in the past. Our last frost date is 15 April, so by starting them now, they should be ready to be transplanted about the right time. Even if it's a complete bust, it was a blast just to be playing with dirt.
We started cucumbers, squash, zucchinis, okra, pole beans, green peppers, sweet peppers and marigolds. Along with these, I plan to start some cantaloupe and watermelon in a couple of more weeks.
The ground is absolutely saturated now. After the last two years being so dry , hopefully we will have a better year coming up for us. The area designated to be the new corn patch this year will have to dry out considerably before we can start working the ground. In the meantime, we will build 5 new raised beds to expand our square foot garden. Construction of our compost bins, new chicken coops and a new duck hut and run are still on the to-do list too.
Spring fever is working overtime if you can't tell.
Y'all Come Back,

Monday, March 9, 2009

Hello, My name is Brad and I'm a Procrastinator!

It’s the internets fault of course. Whether it is square foot gardening, aquaponics, sheep, composting bins, composting worms, cattle, quail, rabbits, greenhouse vegetables, bees or anything else, I can find more information than I could possibly read in my entire lifetime within one Google search. Yet, read and plan is all I do. I have grown tons of strawberries in my plans, as well as sold a thousand head of grass raised livestock in these same plans.

Just when I think, I’ve got all the information I need I see one more website. I find where one more person does it a different way. I can’t just pull the trigger. I have to follow one more link. Then it's next year and still no rabbits. This fall I’ll put in the apple trees. I’ll study the weather patterns one more year before I put up the greenhouse. (It’s a greenhouse for goodness sake, if it needs to be moved, I can move it) The agony is killing me.

Planning is out of character for me. By nature I am a reactor. I can quickly take control in a stressful situation and accomplish tasks. I am a military man and have learned well from all my training. In other words, I excel with the “ifs” as they appear, it’s the “what ifs” that get me second guessing what I’m doing.

So no more Mr. Planner from now on, you can address me as Mr. Doer! Or probably more accurately “Mr. Don’t Know What He’s Doing”, but our little homestead is going to start growing, and I’ll be looking for peoples help along the way.

Y’all Come Back,

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tractor '4' Sale

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

48 Chicks Hatched

I'm very proud of my new breeding stock. My fertility test on my 10 week old Texas A&M quail ended up pretty good in my opinion. We have 48 healthy chicks from 60 eggs. I can live with a 80% hatch rate.

All of the chicks are the same size. That's my goal right now. Since I started back in October I have been trying to concentrate on the mature size (meat weight), and I feel like I've been chasing my tail. I hope I'm on the right track now to a more dependable end product. The main problem I was having was a large disparity in chick size. The large lethargic chicks are about as bad as the weak runts.

Since I will start out with almost identical chicks, I should be able to select the best to be breeders to increase the overall size of the end product. A slow beginning for any chick will not be adequately represented at 10 weeks of age. A small chick, that was pushed away from the food, did not have the same chance to reach his/her size as a larger chick, In the same token an extremely large chick is not able to move around enough to exercise properly. The large ones are the Cornish Cross Chicks of the quail world, without the feed conversion.

My thought is that an active chick from day one that ends up larger than a chick the same size on day one is a superior choice for breeding. I have read studies from Texas A&M university that state that one breeder was able to increased the size by 20 % in only three generations. That's the results I'm looking for!

I plan to bring in some new blood lines this fall. I have two hatcheries in mind (Lakenvelder Farm or CBF SuperQuail) and haven't decided which to use yet. This new blood will allow me to compare/contrast and mix genetic inputs. Have I told y'all how much I love messing with quail?

Y'all Come Back!

Monday, March 2, 2009

New Quail Chicks Hatched Today

This morning we had 29 chicks hatched by 7:30. We collected them and placed them in the brooder, which we set up last night. By the time we had them in the brooder and set up with feed and water another 2 had already hatched in the incubator. We left the two new hatch-lings in the incubator until I get home from work today. My wife went home for lunch and there have been 5 more to hatch and all are just cheeping away in the incubator. I prefer newly hatched chicks to dry and get their balance before I remove them from the incubator. A chick can survive on the yolk it absorbed for 72 hrs so it's not going to starve to death in the incubator. In my opinion the more you open and close the incubator the more chance you take of hurting the chances of others hatching successfully.

This hatch has been strung out more than any others I have had and that is a concern to me. All of the chicks are healthy and strong as well as very uniformed in size. I did have some minor humidity problems during incubation, but I really don't think they were significant enough to cause the long hatch period. Most (probably 90%) of the eggs are from a new young batch of breeders. This is their fertility test and so far we have 36 out of 60 eggs. That is not going to cut it. I'm sure this will get better as they mature. These birds were 10 weeks and three days old when we collected these eggs. Who knows by the time I get home this afternoon maybe we will have more to hatch.

Just as a side bar I always want all the chicks to hatch within 24 hours of each other and will clean out the incubator tonight regardless of how many have hatched and set another clutch of eggs. The size difference between day old and hatch day chicks is unreal. The little ones get suffocated by the larger ones when they huddle up and at the very least get pushed around at the feeders and waters.

Hopefully we'll have all sixty to hatch by later this afternoon.

Y'all Come Back!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Another Happy Day at Rich Heritage Farm

We sold another 52 quail today! One lot of 30, one of a dozen and a third of 10. All were sold as meat birds, so not quite as profitable as breeders. I not complaining, the profit will cover the quail bills for a couple of months even if we don't sell another single one in that time. Actually, I have sold out of meat birds for now. There are 35 that will be ready in about two more weeks and 40 more three weeks behind them. Repeat customers are becoming the theme and definitely one of our main goals. I would never turn away a call today for birds customer if birds are available; however, it's nice to have a customer who request a specific number to be filled on a date in the future.

We collected 72 eggs yesterday, which is our largest collection to date. Today was only a measly 51. I am still experimenting with shipping containers so we can get the shipping egg business underway. If I can't be sure the eggs get were they are going without damage I don't want to send them.

Y'all Come Back!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Will you give this to my Daddy?

This is an e-mail I received today and I just couldn't help posting it here. My kids know how it is to miss their Daddy, and I know how hard it is to miss my kids. Even if it never happened and is completely made up. I know a brother/sister in arms would do this for a child.

Will you give this to my Daddy?

As a Company, Southwest Airlines is going to support 'Red Fridays.' Last week I was in Atlanta , Georgia attending a conference. While I was in the airport, returning home, I heard several people behind me beginning to clap and cheer. I immediately turned around and witnessed one of the greatest acts of patriotism I have ever seen. Moving through the terminal was a group of soldiers in their camos. As they began heading to their gate, everyone (well almost everyone) was abruptly to their feet with their hands waving and cheering. When I saw the soldiers, probably 30-40 of them, being applauded and cheered for, it hit me. I'm not alone. I'm not the only red-blooded American who still loves this country and supports our troops and their families. Of course I immediately stopped and began clapping for these young unsung heroes who are putting their lives on the line everyday for us so we can go to school, work and home without fear or reprisal.
Just when I thought I could not be more proud of my country or of our service men and women, a young girl, not more than 6 or 7 years old, ran up to one of the male soldiers. He kneeled down and said 'hi.' The little girl then asked him if he would give something to her daddy for her. The young soldier, who didn't look any older than maybe 22 himself, said he would try and what did she want to give to her Daddy.. Then suddenly the little girl grabbed the neck of this soldier, gave him the biggest hug she could muster and then kissed him on the cheek.
The mother of the little girl, who said her daughter's name was Courtney, told the young soldier that her husband was a Marine and had been in Iraq for 11 months now. As the mom was explaining how much her daughter Courtney missed her father, the young soldier began to tear up. When this temporarily single mom was done explaining her situation, all of the soldiers huddled together for a brief second. Then one of the other servicemen pulled out a military-looking walkie-talkie. They started playing with the device and talking back and forth on it. After about 10-15 seconds of this, the young soldier walked back over to Courtney, bent down and said this to her, 'I spoke to your daddy and he told me to give this to you.' He then hugged this little girl that he had just met and gave her a kiss on the cheek. He finished by saying 'your daddy told me to tell you that he loves you more than anything and he is coming home very soon.'
The mom at this point was crying almost uncontrollably and as the young soldier stood to his feet, he saluted Courtney and her mom. I was standing no more than 6 feet away from this entire event. As the soldiers began to leave, heading towards their gate, people resumed their applause. As I stood there applauding and looked around, there were very few dry eyes, including my own. That young soldier in one last act of selflessness, turned around and blew a kiss to Courtney with a tear rolling down his cheek.
We need to remember everyday all of our soldiers and their families and thank God for them and their sacrifices. At the end of the day , it's good to be an American.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Raising Quail to Sell

I get ask often about the way I do this or that, or why do I feed this and not that. My quail are livestock, and are hatched and raised to the correct size in a sufficient enough quantity to keep my little side line business operating. I am not an expert! However, I have learned a few things that I wish I would have known at the very beginning. The reason I didn't know these things was entirely my fault. You see, I didn't go to the right source. I asked the people who only raised a few as pets and maybe processed a few culls for the table every once in a while. Don't get me wrong their system worked just fine for them and I praise them for their constant dedication to their birds.

The problems I started having with their system started when I began hatching more birds at one time then they ever had in their entire life put together. When I had my third batch of eggs to hatch (87 out of 100), I began to see the fallacies of the small pet flock holders compared to what I needed.If you are raising any number of birds I hope these suggestions will help you. Some of these suggestions will cost a few dollars up front and possibly a little research up front but it will save you money and most importantly time (If you don't think time is money try feeding 500 quail with the wrong feed and wrong equipment.)

1. Find a supplier of quality feed. I feed game bird starter to all my quail except for the breeders, who get game bird breeder/flight conditioner. (absolutely no exceptions) Yes they can and will eat chicken feed, but I'm raising quail. Yes, you can add things to up the protein in chicken feed and it will be as high in protein as the game bird feed. That may be a possibility for 5 birds, but not for 500, because of the time it takes.

2. Use adequate sized appliances for you quail. A baby quail is born trying to commit suicide and thinking they are ducks. Have quail size waterers and still put marbles in the founts for the first week. By the time they are 3 days old they should be eating out of feeders to stop some of the feed waste. I use the plastic trays cookies come in. They are very similar to a plastic ice tray, which I will use to replace the trays I'm using right now when they become unusable. (I'm not a cookie eater and I don't have a clue which cookies they came from.)

3. Clean waterers every day and disinfect all appliances at least weekly. This applies if you have 5 or 500.

4. Collect eggs at a minimum of two times a day. Store eggs little end down in a cool place with a lot of humidity. Batches of eggs being incubated should all be the same size and if at all possible should have been collected within three days of each other. While in the incubator I always keep at least 45% humidity until day 15. At day 15 I remove them from the turner and raise the humidity to 70%. I remove the trays from the turner, but keep the eggs in the trays. I use a hovabator forced air incubator that will hold up to 120 eggs. Strong chicks should pip, zip and pop out of the egg quickly. The egg trays keep the ones that have just hatched from kicking the other eggs all over the place.

5. Every time you open the incubator you are endangering the chicks that have not hatched yet. A newly hatched chick can stay in the incubator for up to 72 hrs. (I've never had a hatch to be that spread out, but I have left them in there for over 12 hrs. The same people who feed chicken feed to their quail will tell you that the quail chicks metabolism is so fast it must have food and water within 12 hrs of hatching. Yeah, when you figure that one out, please draw me a picture! Eggs that fail to hatch, fail for a reason. If you assist a weak chick to hatch, you will have to assist it from then on. I am not heartless, it's just the truth of the matter.

6. Baby chicks are only cute for about 4 days. They start growing feathers and their poop starts stinking right about the 5 day old mark!

I hope this info can be useful to someone, and if you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009


I have been researching aquaponics for over a year, and we're finally on the verge of diving in!

Aquaponics is the combination of Aquaculture and Hydroponics where you raise fish in a tank and plants in grow beds. The system is a closed loop (with the exception of the fish food) where the fish tank water is filtered by the grow beds and the plants get all their nourishment from the water and in turn clean and hep oxygenate the water that is then returned to the fish. The system can be a constant flow or a flood and drain. Our system will be a flood and drain. If you have never heard of aquaponics before please do a search on the Internet as my description is just a country boy's thumbnail.

Ahhhh, the Internet such a wealth of information. As with searching anything, I found almost as much confusing information as I did straight forward helpful information. A lot of the web pages I visited were wanting to sell me their systems and each would contradict the last page. Another problem was that the few people I could find using aquaponics in the U.S. are in a completely geographical section. I wanted to use a fish species that I knew could survive in our climate and not use some tropical fish I had never heard of before that would die on me the first day. I had placed the idea on the back burner, since to be honest I could just continue to expand my square foot gardening and traditional gardening and put up a green house with the knowledge I already have.

However, my fortune changed last week. I made contact with a great guy in South Illinois, on Homesteading Today, who is running a system like the one I'm wanting to start. He and his wife have been running their system for a few years and they have been nice enough to answer questions I have had. They even sent me pictures of their system. They are having great success growing catfish and vegetables from March to November. With their help, I know I can further my path to self sustainability and increase the profit margin on the farm.

I will start a scaled down prototype system in the next few weeks to operate and experiment with while we're still learning. I will also learn to take pictures and post them here on the blog so everyone can follow our progress and see if it's something you would like to try.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Finally an Update on the Quail

The quail business is moving steadily for us. We have sold a number of meat birds and the orders keep coming in. As a matter of fact we are kind of caught in the middle right at this moment because I have a customer requesting 30 and the oldest batch I have is still has two weeks grow out left. This is a great problem to have though!

We are hatching 200 a month for sale and this will probably triple after April 1st, since we will be able to house them in outside pens. Our oldest breeders will be replaced at that time too. Currently they are all housed with the breeders in the garage turned aviary. We have grow out pens set up and could place more into the current aviary, but it's the amount of manure that is hard to deal with not the actual number of birds. The dropping from Texas A&Ms contain more moisture than other quail like the bob whites. The ammonia overload in the manure will start burning your eyes after about three days, so keeping the place clean is a constant chore. The hot one day then the cold raining 40 mph wind days the next, seem to be stacked against our clean-out schedule.

Hopefully, we will be able to start selling hatching eggs by April. This past Wed, I collect 51 eggs of which 43 of them were perfect. By perfect I mean correct size, shape and weight. Although, I never plan to sell a thousand eggs at a time. I would like to sell up to three dozen to a customer and they know that they are getting the freshest best hand selected eggs they can get. Uniform egg size also helps with uniform chick size after they hatch. I have actually tested the theory. The larger the egg the larger the chick, at a glance, that sounds ideal, but in my personal experience the largest eggs produce lethargic chicks and the smaller eggs produce small weak chicks. The best chicks come from well shaped eggs just shy of the largest eggs. If I am going to sell somebody something it's going to be the best I can produce. This might cost me some money due to not selling every product available, but I can live with that.

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