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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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