Category Archives: Farming

Morning Feed Ritual at the Farm

Our morning ritual around here in the winter season begins shortly after breakfast and I always fix us a good breakfast to start the day.

Hubby heads out to feed the three small herds of cattle.  Each herd is a little different but the two biggest herds (25-30 cows) get two 4×5 round bales of hay every day.  One of these herds also has 24 calves with them which are 2-3 months of age.  They mimic mom and eat some of the hay too but mainly depend on her milk until they’re about 5-6 months old.  The third herd consists of 14 heifers that will be bred in June.  They are fed one 4×5 round bale each day along with a five-gallon bucket of corn gluten/whole corn mixture every other day.  Then we have our herd of bulls which is only three but those guys can eat and get two square bales of hay each day and corn gluten once a week.  Everyone is fat and sassy!

My feeding schedule consists of three rabbits that we use for breeding stock.  They are part Lop but the perfect size for meat rabbits.  Each morning and afternoon they are given fresh water, a cup of rabbit pellets, a carrot and half of a sweet apple.  They love apples and I treat them in the winter time because there is no fresh grass to feed them.  I keep a bat of hay in their hutches for eating but I also keep hay covering the wire floor of the hutch to keep the frigid wind off of them.  They have a nesting box in the hutch in the winter time to get out of the wind. Their hutches are cleaned weekly regardless of the weather.

Sebastian

Marigold

Cleome

 

 

 

 

 

Then I head out to the chicken house with a gallon of hot water, an egg basket and any scraps from the table.  I have 33 chickens, one of which is a rooster.  I have five young hens that tend to roost in the egg nest every night after I shut them in the building.  Each morning those nest have to be cleaned out so the eggs aren’t nasty because chickens just don’t care what they lay those eggs on.  The chickens have a large tub outside of the building for water during the day and a large pan inside that doesn’t freeze often but when it’s in the 20’s it has to be refilled four or five times a day and the eggs are gathered more often too.  They have a feed trough that is four feet long, six inches wide and about four inches deep.  I fill it every day with scratch grain, black-oil sunflower seeds and during the winter laying crumbles.  In the summer they forage the entire farm but there’s not much to be found in the wintertime.  A few times a month they get a treat of dried mealworms which they love.  Currently with all those chickens I’m only getting about a dozen eggs a day but they’re wonderful eggs that are large, brown, pink, green, blue and a couple white ones.  Egg production will pickup in the spring!

                                                                                                                                                

 

Once the feeding is done and the eggs are gathered, I’m off to the wood shed to bring in enough to fill of the stove for the night and if it’s calling for rain or snow, I fill up one end of the porch.   The bird feeders are then filled and then it’s time to come in and make preparations for dinner!!

Last Day of January 2018

Can you believe it’s the last day of January?? I spent the morning do normal indoor chores like, sweeping and mopping the floors, making the bed, two loads of laundry and other minor jobs after having breakfast with the Mister!  I got pork tenderloin out of the freezer for dinner and then saw that the temperature had risen to 40* and no wind.  OUTSIDE I GO!!!

We’re still in for some cold weather and hopefully some snow because our pastures, yard, hayfields, just the earth in general needs a good soak before spring really appears!  I knew I had some pruning to do on some fruit trees but the grapes needed it worst than the others.

A tangled mess of four vines that have been planted two years and I’m expecting big things from this year.

In order to get those beautiful grapes they need to be pruned each year.  Grapes grown on new stems each year!

This end of the arbor holds grapes that we started from an old vine on the farm. They are blue, not real big but so sweet. The vines usually provide a lot of grapes!

I use some wonderful little hand pruners on all of the small vines, trees and my rose bushes.  It’s very important to sterilize them and I use just plain old rubbing alcohol.  It took about an hour but they’re all trimmed and now we wait!  While waiting we pray for no late frosts to kill them.

Hubby thinks I scalped them but from past experience I know I’ll have more grapes and if Mother Nature cooperates they’ll be bigger grapes.

They’re thinned of their old bearing branches and the only thing left to do is tighten the arbor lines that we made from plastic covered clothes line. It tends to stretch each year but is easy to tighten.

After I finished pruning the grapes I went around the garden and trimmed suckers and water sprouts off the green gage, peach, pear and blue plums.  The big job will be trimming the apple trees which seem to get less attention each year but I’m going to get what I can from the ground and hope for some help with the higher branches.

I am so ready to start growing something!!!

 

It’s Been A Year

I still can’t believe she’s gone and still get weepy when I think of her. Our Cocker Spaniel, Sassy, died a year ago today and we’re so sad.  Eddie bought her for me as a puppy in 2004 and she has been our baby ever since.

 

 

 

 

 

Rest in peace my beautiful girl!!

 

A Taste of Frigid Weather

I don’t like being unprepared for much of anything but the last two weeks or so of frigid air gave me a real kick in the pants!  We have been used to teens and single digit weather but not with 20 – 45 mile an hour winds.  We were able to keep the house good and warm but had to keep heaters in the cellar and laundry room around in the clock.  We didn’t have any frozen water pipes or lose any of the valuable canned goods.

We did however have to keep chopping holes in the streams that water our cattle.  We had to move two herds due to the mountain springs freezing solid and the feed we gave them was increased by an extra roll of hay each day, giving the two larger herds three round bales and the heifers two.  The heifers and bulls  were given corn gluten every other day.

January 3rd we went to Rural King to pick up salt and feed for the chickens and he bought me a new insulated barn coat and insulated bib coveralls!!!  Along with the Extreme socks Heather bought me for Christmas, the flannel lined jeans Shawn got me and these from Eddie the winter weather coming would not be taking hold of me!!!!

First pair of flannel lined jeans I’ve ever had and they are so comfortable.

Flannel-lined jeans, heavy flannel shirt, black under armor, insulated flannel lined bibs and a wonderful insulated hooded barn coat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know how the Pillsbury Dough Boy  feels now, waddling around!!!!

January 5th was the worst day and the pickup wouldn’t start, the big tractor fuel was frozen and wouldn’t start, and we used the small Kubota until the hydraulics froze up.  At this point the cattle were fed the old fashioned way by using 15 square bales of hay loaded onto the old Dodge pickup for the larger herds and 10 square bales to the heifers.  We keep bales of hay in the loft of the bull barn for the bulls and they were fed hay and grain.  I had filled up the firewood on the porch and in the house and was constantly chucking it into the woodstoves.  I made a huge pot of soup on the stove and our bodies stayed warm and full on the inside!!! The chickens and rabbits were checked hourly along with Mischief, our coon hound and all were given fresh warm water. Mischief stayed wadded up in her house with enormous batts of hay! We had been feeding her extra food to keep some fat on for just this kind of weather. We take good care of all of our animals. The temperature that day finally reached 12* but the wind was raging and expecting to last through noon Saturday.  With the wind chill the last few days our temps were ranging from -12* to 0*.   Mr. Caldwell was working on thawing the tractor all day in the frigid cold and wind!

Finally on Monday we were able to get out and do some extra winterizing to prepare for the next onset which might be within the next week!

The chickens are out and able to free range again although there isn’t much grass for them to find and they love anything green.

Cleome staying in her warm nesting box loaded with fresh hay.

Marigold is doing the same but she comes out more than Cleome.

Sebastian has two sections to his hutch. When the wind is howling you won’t catch him out in this open area of his hutch.

During the storm they didn’t have this loose hay out in the open part of their hutches but they will now until spring. There is one area of their hutches that has no hay and that’s because it’s their “potty” area behind their nesting boxes..

Marigold likes to sit on top of her box a lot but didn’t during the bad weather! It’s unbelievable how Mother Nature had provided them with such luxiourious fur coats for the winter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So with the rabbits taken care of before the next batch of frigid weather, I went straight to the hen house.  Extra bedding was put in their nests to help keep the eggs from freezing.  There’s not much I can do with their water freezing except take them warm water more often.  Hopefully in the spring the electricity will be added to their house but this new house is much warmer and cleaner than the old one.

The chickens are out and able to free range again although there isn’t much grass for them to find and they love anything green.

The hens belong to this cinder-block building now. It’s warm, easier to clean because it has openings along the lower end of the shed to clean out under the roosts with a pressure hose. It’s cool in the summer and warm in the winter UNLESS it gets in the 20 degree range or lower.

We have a frost-free spigot outside of the building to get their water. No more hauling jugs of water up the hill behind the house anymore!!

We have 36 hens now and Eddie put 14 nesting boxes so that everyone will have plenty of room to provide us with wonderful farm fresh eggs.

There’s no crowding on the roosts but chickens are the worst for having a pecking order.

Yesterday I put a layer of fresh hay on the floor for the older girls to sit in during the day. These ladies are all four to five years old and don’t lay much but they’re my girls so they get preferential treatment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I use a metal pan for their water so that when it freezes I can take it outside, pour a little hot water over the bottom and the ice pops right out.  I do carry a jug of hot water with me when I go check the water for the rabbits, chickens and the dog.  They love that warm water to warm their insides!  I’m keeping the rabbits and the chickens feed bowls full.  If they have plenty to eat their fat stores will help to keep them warm.

Now that the animals are better prepped for the frigid air to return it was time to fill up the porch with two types of firewood.

The east end of the porch has well seasoned firewood. I put one end of a 9 x 12 tarp down on the porch and place the wood on top of it. This protects the porch and the leftover end of the tarp is pulled up over the wood and held in place with extra sticks of wood and bungee cords. The stack when full if about five feet high and fills the eight feet length of the end of the porch.

The west end of the porch has the same amount of wood but this has not seasoned as much and we use it at night to hold the fire for several hours. It’s heavier because it’s not been cut and split as long, is dry but not as dry as the other wood. We don’t have to worry as much about Flue fires with seasoned wood and there’s been a lot of complete home losses in Virginia this year due to fires!

We have two piles of wood outside and one is seasoned, split and covered.  The other is dried but not fully seasoned and not split.  We have plenty more in the woods ready to take down and bring in to the house.

We keep a large rack of firewood in the house beside the stove (about 18-24 inches away from the stove so we won’t have to go out everytime we need to fill the stove.

 

 

 

We have two large ponds on the property and both have 8-10 inches of ice on them now but the overflows water the heifers and the bulls. The other cattle now get their water from some lowland springs that rarely go dry but we have to watch them because with the weather we were having they will freeze and have to be broken up a few times a day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve made it through the first of the really cold winter weather but we’re ready for the worst to come in the next three months.  Between now and then I’ll sit with my new seed catalogs and prepare for what we all hope to be an early spring!!   When we expect high winds and possible power outages I keep plenty of buckets of water in the laundry room for flushing the toilets and several gallon jugs of water for cooking and hand-washing.  We keep supplies of candles, oil lamps and matches on hand and small wood on the side porch for the wood cook stove.  Four small tanks of propane are always full to heat the laundry room (holds our main source of water pipes) and the cellar.

Stay warm and don’t forget to prepare for the next winter hit of weather!

Cleaning Up the Mountain

 

View of the mountain from our front porch before the cleanup..

A “before and after” view of our mountain is such a huge change and it  took several hours and days to complete.  Our mountain view has disappeared over the last few years due to barberry, alm olive and other obnoxious shrubs.  We contacted Aaron Calfee from Paint Bank to do the work for us.  He has a bushhog that fits the front of a track loader (Bobcat, maybe).  The shrubs had taken over a lot of really good pasture land for our cattle.  It’s very steep and Eddie just would not get on the side of a mountain with any kind of equipment.  It looks really great now and we’ll have to keep a watch on it in the spring and do some spraying to keep it knocked down and the cattle will eat a lot of the tender young sprouts.  Here are some after photos that show how the mountain opened up.

Finish out 2017 . . . .

Today and tomorrow I’ll be finishing up some posts of 2017, so bear with me.
It’s been such a busy year and I just don’t understand how it can be the end of December 2017.

On Christmas Eve morning I went to Covington to pick up my brother Dean and brought him to the farm to spend the day.

We had some quality time together and man can that man eat!

He waited until after our late lunch to open his gifts and then he was ready to go back to Covington.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Christmas day we drove to Roanoke to spend some time with hubby’s sister Dreama.  She was full of family gossip and news and she seemed to like the gifts we took to her and we thoroughly loved the gifts she had for us.

Dreama is a worry wart and always so sad of anyone’s troubles whether they relate to her or not.

She’s wearing out the Christmas sweatshirt that Heather got her for her birthday. She is a huge fan of Christmas and has Heather put up her tree the day after Thanksgiving and doesn’t want it taken down until March if she can get away with it. She’ll leave all of her gifts under the tree until it comes down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had a wonderful evening with the kids the day after Christmas.

Christmas with the family, Heather is taking the picture.

Heather and Jippy waiting to open gifts. Jippy loves to lay under all the wrapping paper!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heather fixed a wonder dinner of baked ham, mashed potatoes, bacon wrapped asparagus, and so much more.  We were all stuffed but still able to trod upstairs to open the gifts.   Our children always gift us with wonderful things that we can use throughout the year and this year was no exception.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas everyone!

Happy New Year!

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone  from Caldwell Farm!  Hope your day is full of blessings!

Down with the Old

The chickens needed a new home due to the age of their existing house!  It leaked like a sieve.  Critters were getting in no matter what we did and killed eleven of my new chicks that were under two months of age.  The hill I walked to get to it was becoming a hazard for me in the winter months.  We moved the chickens (they were not happy at first) into a cinder block building which has electricity and water and a separate room for their feed.

Old Chicken house is made mainly of wormy chestnut. When we started tearing it down we were able to save some better boards.

After two weeks of tearing off boards when we had an hour to spare, it’s starting to look like a spooky shell!!

As we tore off the outsides, everything was thrown to the inside of the shell to burn.

The only parts of the building that weren’t wormy chestnut were oak and pine replacements over the years.

Even the nesting boxes were wormy chestnut. We saved them to use for nesting boxes in the new house.

Next we cut the main support beams on the interior and wrapped a chain around them which was attached to the tractor and started pulling it down.

Amazingly the roof fell straight down on to the interior debris.

Within two hours the fire was almost finished except for some large beams that served as ground support. It took two days for the smoke to dissapate and then it was time to pile up the tin roof and dispose of it.

Fairly simple clean up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now the chickens use the remaining area as a dusting bath!  Next spring I’ll spread it out a bit and start a new area for gardening.

The Beauty of Butterflies

My butterfly bush was an especially beautiful treat today! Very few blooms at the moment but the butterflies stayed on it all day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sedum was found with sweet nectar as well!

 

 

 

Everything blooming was covered with a honeybee preparing for winter!

Hornets_The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Cooler weather is good and upon us and we’ve actually had a fire in the woodstove several nights to take out the chill and dampness.  Fall has crept in on us with the trees changing color and the shadows falling on the ground remind me of Halloween.  Pumpkins everywhere we go and bales of straw.  Scarecrows sitting in every nook and cranny!

With fall come the acts of nature that we overlook until you almost walk into it!  By this I mean, bee nests and I walked right under this one several times before actually seeing it!

I walk along this path several times a week as do the heifers when going to water.

Can you see anything hanging from the tree?  My first encounter was in July and I walked through that path about six times one looking for little chicks in distress because they couldn’t find their mom.  I never saw a thing while walking but that afternoon I was in the laundry room folding clothes and looked out the window and there hung a hornet’s nest the size of a volleyball!

It’s now about 18 to 20 inches long and about 15 inches thick!!!

We didn’t want to destroy them because as long as you leave them alone hornets are good!  They catch thousands of houseflies!!  That’s the GOOD!

The BAD is if I had walked into their nest and made them mad!!  I would have been stung several times before realizing what was happening!  The UGLY is those insects are black, big and build onto that nest all summer.  It’s huge now!

During the day the hornets are flying in and out of it and there are guard hornets marching all over it to protect the hive.

When I walked under it in July it was about seven feet off the ground. Now it’s so heavy and hangs about three feet off the ground.

I’ve found a new path around it so I don’t disturb them!

Along with the hornets we’re seeing lots of bumblebee’s which have a nest in the ground in my rose garden.  The rose garden is a mess now because I can’t get in it to weed.  The yellow jackets and sand hornets are all over the apples in the orchards but we haven’t found their nests yet.  All of the bees make great pollinators but  they do have an ugly and  mean side!!!