Turkey Update, 1st Youtube Video!

October 11, 2017

 

The turkeys are a great addition.  An earlier post described my movable pen and cattle trailer which I used to lock them up at night and avoid predation.  They quickly outgrew that idea.

So I put them in our old dairy barn and left them locked in for a couple of days to acclimate them to that space as home.  Then I opened the door and watched.

 

They are avid foragers of greens and insects, roaming now at nine weeks over approximately ten acres.  Oddly, they are attracted to humans and vehicles and really anything novel.

They started a bad habit of coming up on the back porch and lounging, especially if people were sitting there.  They weren’t bothersome, except for the prodigious quantities of excrement they produce.

So I made a hillbilly decision and put a fence around my back porch.  The turkeys are free-range, but the farmer is confined!

 


Disc Golf

August 29, 2017

 

 

August, 2014, driving into Darlington, my hometown. “Are those disc golf baskets?” I exclaimed. Yes, disc golf had come to Darlington, with 9 baskets placed around the perimeter of swimming pool park.

I was excited. About fifteen years ago I had taken up the sport when a friend introduced me to it. I bought a couple of discs and enjoyed playing at Platteville. I seemed to have a natural affinity for the sport as I have always loved throwing frisbees.

When Doug moved to Vermont, I quit playing and didn’t think about the sport much. But when I saw the baskets in Darlington I was eager to give it a try again.

I found a great group of guys who played a doubles league on Sundays and I could hold my own. The Halloween doubles tournament arrived and I showed up even though I had no partner. I was partnered with a pretty good player from Madison and we managed to tie for third place. ‘I’m pretty good at this,’ I thought.

So I joined the PDGA and signed up for my first sanctioned tournament in 2015.  I wasn’t sure which division to sign up for so I signed up for Pro Masters.  I played as well as I could at the time, but finished last.

Undeterred, I continued to practice.  At another tournament I learned that Madison would be hosting Amateur worlds in 2016, but you needed a certain number of points to qualify.  You receive points for every competitor you beat.

So I started playing in a lower division to get more points, and managed to win my first tournament in a thrilling comeback.  Now I was really hooked.

The next year Worlds at Madison was a great experience with competitors from all around the world.  I finished 53rd out of 71 competitors in the Advanced Masters division, (40-49 years of age).    Not as good as I hoped, but I continued to practice.  I won two more tournaments in 2016.

This year I wasn’t sure if I would take the time to play Worlds.  But it was located in the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois, only 2 and a half hours from my home.  So I decided to play and finished about the same as last year, 58th out of 76 competitors.  Another great experience, though.

This was where these photos were taken.  At the top is me, driving, or throwing off the tee.  The bottom photo is me putting.  You can tell I take it seriously, but so do everyone else who play at this level.

It looks like my disc golf career is going to have to slow as I am taking a more active role in the marketing of Jordandal farms meat.  I’ve been selling most Saturdays at the Westside Farmers Market in Madison.  Most tournaments are on Saturdays, some on Sundays, but even the Sunday tournaments will be difficult as the Farmers Market is more taxing than most would guess unless you’ve experienced it.


American Toad Tadpoles

June 20, 2017

 

May was a wet month with rain every couple of days.  My pig wallows filled with water.  One wallow that had yet to see pigs this spring was used as breeding grounds for the opportunistic American Toad.

The frog species on our farms almost exclusively use my parents’ pond for breeding since it was built in 1992.  Toads are not as picky and will breed in any standing water, sometimes to the detriment of the resulting tadpoles as often these water holes will dry up if the rains stop.  And that is what happened here as the first two weeks of June saw warm temperatures and no rain.

I was looking forward to thousands of baby toads in my yard, so I intervened with a garden hose, adding water every day or so until we got two inches of rain a few days ago.  Now I’m starting to find the little toads hopping around.

The tadpoles almost seem to shrink as they develop legs.  Its as if the fat tadpole body repositions itself into the skinny legs as the tail shrinks.  I love the American Toad.


Resilient Swine

December 18, 2016

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December 18th, 2016, 4 pm.  3 degrees below zero Farenheit, 17 degrees below zero windchill.  8 week old piglets with their mothers.

Pigs are resilient.  I continue to be amazed at just how resilient.  My background and education in the commodity swine industry tells me these piglets should just die in this environment, but I’ve always tried to be one who observes what is actually happening, rather than closing my eyes and “knowing” what should be happening.

I have a hoop building cleaned and bedded with feed in the feeder.  I’ve been trying to let the piglets self-wean for a few days, and even though they are going in the hoop building to eat feed, they prefer to spend their resting time with their mothers.  I guess I’ll corral them one of these days to finish the weaning process.

 

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Sharpening Chainsaw Chain

January 13, 2016

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I’m frustrated.  Look above the S in the word Stihl.  See how its black on the cutting edge.  That means the person who sharpened this chain got the metal too hot and it will no longer keep a sharp edge.  My buddy, a professional tree trimmer told me this.

And it makes sense because the chain had a lot of life left in it when I took it to the shop to be sharpened, but when I brought it home and tried to cut Elm, it went dull very quickly.  I tried to touch up the edge with my file but the steel feels different.

I suppose  a person could cut a softer wood and maybe not notice, but Elm is one of the hardest to cut in our area.  I put a new chain on my saw and it cut right through the Elm.  It is truly amazing the difference a sharp chain makes.  Now I’m thinking of the Abraham Lincoln quote.    I don’t know how you spend four hours sharpening an axe, though.

Why do chains get dull besides regular use?  Dirt dulls a chain quickly.  This is why I usually lift logs off the ground with the bale carrier on my tractor.  And if I’m not paying attention, another way to wreck a good chain is to hit metal, so I have to be careful not to cut through the log in a place where the metal bale carrier is underneath.  Interestingly though, chainsaws cut through ice without getting dull quite well.  Hence the hobby of some sculptors to use chainsaws to make ice sculptures.

 


Native Beneficial Insects

January 26, 2015

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The above photo was taken August 10th.  It’s my Native Pollinator Garden which I grew from transplants, planted in June.  Insects were attracted to the garden, with a favorite plant being Hairy Mountain Mint, small white flowers near the top of the photo.

The orange and black beetles, pictured below, blanketed the Mint.  I had never seen this beetle before and I immediately thought, “Oh no, I’ve attracted a new pest.”  Looking back, it’s amazing to see my negative bias.

 

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This winter I picked up a new book from The Xerces Society, “Farming with Native Beneficial Insects“, and in there was a picture of my beetle in the Predatory Insects section.  The Goldenrod Soldier Beetle eats insect larvae and eggs, aphids, and slugs.  The adult Soldier Beetle needs nectar and pollen to survive, which they were getting from my garden.  My garden was doing exactly what I wanted it to do, but my negative bias kept me from recognizing it.

In the photo below you can see what I think is a Blue Mud Dauber Wasp, which provides size comparison to the Soldier Beetles. I should also say Soldier Beetles are related to Fireflies, which we see plenty of on summer nights.

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The photo below is of some type of Tachina Fly.  I’m amazed to say I’ve also gained an appreciation for flies.  I guess the ability to see insect nature up-close is helping me appreciate it.  I enjoy seeing the megafauna like deer, turkey, bald eagle, but you never get to really examine them unless they are dead.  Most of these insects, however, don’t mind your nose being a foot away.

It’s not all peaceful though.  Much is written about the plight of the Monarch butterfly, probably exaggerated, but I try to leave some Milkweed growing and keep an eye on the Monarch population.  I’m happy to say I’ve seen many Monarch caterpillars, but am sorry to say I haven’t seen any pupate.

I watch the caterpillars daily.  Once you know where they are it’s pretty easy to find them again.  One day I checked a big caterpillar twice, only to find it shriveled to a third of its original size, with a predatory Stink bug in the process of sucking the remaining juices out of it.

Even though I was disappointed the Monarch caterpillar was dead, I left the Stink bug alone.  I realized it’s always a balance, and beyond creating a decent habitat, there is little I should do.

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Sweet Corn Planting Mistake

July 28, 2014

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I made a rookie-type mistake planting my sweet corn.  After planting my Dad’s field corn, I changed the population from 30,000 plants per acre down to 20,000 plants per acre, and I cleaned out each of the four seed hoppers in my John Deere 7200 planter.

I’ve owned this corn planter for over five years, and I’ve cleaned out the hoppers the same way every time, (dumping them upside down several times), but this time one of the hoppers had quite a bit of corn stuck down inside where I couldn’t see it.  Furthermore, when I started planting, that row was plugged and corn was not coming out.  Luckily, the monitor tells me when a row isn’t planting, so I wouldn’t have planted the whole field with a missing row.

I unplugged the row and finished planting the whole field, stopping once to add another variety of sweet corn.  I planted two varieties this year, both supersweet, but with different maturities.  I noticed there was more corn in the second hopper, but figured that must have been because it didn’t plant that one time across the field.

Fast-forward to a couple of months later.  I noticed that the rows of corn were developing differently, but figured that must have been the difference in variety.  Then we had a summer storm with strong winds.  Most of the corn was bent over from the strong wind, but some of the rows were not affected.  I still figured it was due to varietel difference.

Finally, when the corn started tasseling, with the taller rows not tasseling, a light bulb went on and I realized what had happened.  The tall rows were my Dad’s field corn.  The next thought I had was, “Oh no, my sweet corn is ruined.”  You see, supersweet corn needs to be isolated from other types of corn or the sugar in it turns to starch and it tastes terrible.  This happened once with our sweet corn when I was a kid, and it was inedible.

But then I realized that the sweet corn was tasseling, but the field corn was not.  So if the sweet corn could pollinate before the sweet corn tasseled, I would be fine.  I could have detasseled all the field corn to be safe, but you know me, my curiosity comes before my success.  So now we wait and see.

Next year I know exactly what I will do differently.  I’m going to upend each hopper, removing all the visible corn.  Then I will put the planter in the ground somewhere out of the way, and plant any remaining seeds until the monitor tells me each row is empty.

On a side note, you can see the pumpkin and squash is growing gangbusters.  In the foreground you can see a new purchase I made: Racoon Net from Premier fence.  The three-strand electric fence I always made in the past helped, but didn’t completely keep the raccoons out of the sweet corn.  I’m hoping this netting works better, and I’ll try to remember to let you know how it does.