Friday, June 29, 2012


Mother Nature has been very kind to us farmers lately.

2 weeks of perfect weather have made for extraordinary haying and perfect hay.  Early too.

I knew it was close to haying time when I started seeing all kinds of haying equipment being parked closer to fields.

 In a matter of hours cows had discovered this antique tractor.

They gave it the once over....

and then went back to grazing.

On the other side of town the BIg haying had already begun.

The hay had been cut and now this rig was rolling it into windrows so the balers could pick it up.

He had several large fields to do and was out in the field raking until 9 pm with his lights on.

Whether hay is made with an antique tractor or a modern one, the results are the same:

Nutritious hay.

Happy cows in winter.

How is all the haying going where you are?

Remember to stay hydrated during all this humid weather!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Cows without Makeup

If I sneak down to the herd very very early in the morning, I can catch them before they go put on all their special makeup so they are ready for their daily photo shoots that they go through.   Now that school is out, tourists have been on road adventures and exploring the scenic back roads of Vermont. The herd is a popular photo subject.

I enjoy talking to people about the cows, calves, steers and any other subject they want to. Mostly they want to know how to get back to a main road so they can head home.   

After the crowds have left for the day, the cows go to the stream and wash their makeup off and go back to being just regular cows.

Is your farm on a tourist path?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Veggies and Duck

I have been eating delicious radishes for a month now, and so have the other 3 families I have been giving my surplus to.  My 4 kinds of lettuce too.  I feed 4 families plus my ducks all the lettuce they want.

Some of my lettuce, brussel sprouts, peas and baby swiss chard was destroyed the other day by a wicked hailstorm, but most of it bounced back up. I fed all the damaged crops to the flock.  This is the 2nd hailstorm in as many weeks. These hailstones were larger and more abundant. The front yard was full of round ice cubes as they came out of the black sky.
A few trees were stripped of leaves from hail and a few trees fell across the road because of the severe winds.

I started picking swiss chard today and had a great lunch.  Got some tomatoes that are big and green and will probably be ready next week if the sun stays out.  Been snacking on sweet peas as I do some weeding in the garden. What a treat those are. I have had to fight with the ducks over who gets to eat the most peas. Evidently they are a preferred food for handsome ducks.

My garden is producing all kinds of wonderful veggies and flowers.   I am a little nervous with the amount of egg plant that is growing blossoms.   I think I planted much more than I wanted. I thought only a few would survive the March weather, but they all did well.

On the Ducky front there is plenty of news.   The snail population has met their match in Duck Power.
These 2 ducks have eaten their weight in snails and slugs every day and have eliminated any vegetable destruction from the snails.  This time last year my compost bin was overflowing with snail damaged lettuce, chard, tomatoes, growing squash, melons, peppers and anything else you could think of and it got worse as the summer progressed.  The ducks are the organic weapon I needed to put a stop to the growing garden pest problem.  As an added bonus, the 6 pullets have destroyed every ant mound on the property and this is the first year we have not been invaded by ants in the mud room and kitchen.

Unexpectedly, Agnes and Ruthless have morphed and molted into Agnew and Rudy.
We were all so convinced they were hens until last week.    I kept waiting for their voices to change and suspected they would never quack like a hen.... and then their heads started turning green, but I also ignored that as well.  They have been molting into their adult plumage for the past 3 weeks.   When their tail feathers started curling on Wednesday I couldn't deny any longer that my ducks weren't the girls I thought they were.

Its a bit thrilling to have TWO Silver Appleyard drakes in the flock.
Most people who have these kind of ducks are always looking for unrelated males to breed to their flock.
And guess what ?   These two are not related to each other. One came from Mississippi and the other from Kentucky.  They are not related to any of the Appleyard ducks in this region so there is much potential for a duck swap.  They are so tame, comical and well trained.  I can call them from anywhere on the property and they come a running!  The chickens follow them everywhere.  They are also dog friendly.     Their favorite treat are scratch grains and lettuce, however they will eat anything they find while foraging.

Well, looks like I am going to have to go on to find mates for my boys.   Time for them to hook up with some decent gals and start making some ducklings to increase the population of their rare breed. 

Help me find some "marrying kind" of Appleyard hens for my boys.

Have you had to find mates for your flock, herd or gaggle?
Was it an interesting adventure?

Barn Repair in March

I found this in my March file--so keep in mind that this was the weird non-winter we were having in the early parts of March.  Lots of sun, 80 degrees.

This is one of the oldest barns in the area and one of the longest.

There is another barn INSIDE if this one dating back to 1660.

This barn looks like The Ark.  Its huge.

Ability to be able to balance on a rotten roof and climb many ladders steps is a good skill to have in rural America.

Shirtless in MARCH!


Looks good.



The cows now have a water proof barn again.


Have you repaired your barn roof ?

Shingles, slate or metal?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Big Picture

It's all about keeping the agricultural spaces open, the greenery visible and the livestock benefiting from lush grass, clean mountain streams and great views.

This same environment benefits the numerous wildlife in a big way.
Certain birds only nest in fields, flocks of turkeys power graze all the bugs and sweet grasses, deer herds join the cows as they munch on clover and timothy.
Thousands of finches, bees, hummingbirds and butterflies invade the fields in search of weed seeds, flowers, milk weed, pollen and other tasty treats.

Hawks, owls and other sky predators hunt the mice, moles, rabbits and other rodents that make their homes in the fields.        Fields are alive with all kinds of animals, many we can not see.
Many I do see on a daily basis.

A farmer who is a good steward of the land is a good steward for wildlife too.

So the next time you see a content herd of cattle or a flock of sheep, think of all the wildlife that you don't see that are living in the same foot print of the healthy herd.

Don't forget all the wild flowers that live in cow fields too.

Here is my favorite one.    Blooming all over the field in the last 2 days.

Name this flower.

And tell me what is going on in your field.....

Monday, June 18, 2012

Farm Days

The strawberries are ripe and ready to go and area farms have a variety of fresh produce for sale.

Flowers and vegetable plants are also available by the wagonload.

There are many people to engage in conversation when you visit a local farm stand.  I have met some wonderful folks while shopping for raw milk, berries, jam, spring veggies and pickled eggs. 

 I have also met some very sweet cows that guard the farm gate while......  

 others take an afternoon nap.

My favorite sights are antique weather vanes against a perfect blue sky.

I am lucky to live in a fertile valley of farms, food, forests and bovines.

What veggies and fruits are ripe in your area?

Friday, June 15, 2012


I am fortunate to pass several large beaver-made swamps on the way to work. Twice a day I get to observe the wildlife, in all 4 seasons, that use this body of water in many different ways.

For the last several weeks, in the fog, I could barely make out a shape on top of the main beaver lodge.

When the foggy mornings ended I was delighted to see this duck family using the beaver lodge to raise their family and use it as a guard post.
(Click on the photos to see the rest of the camouflaged family in the water and in the reeds.)

In the morning the female and her ducklings were on it, and in the evening I was able to take a few photos of the drake on the lodge acting as a sentry.

I was a great distance away, but the minute I sneezed, he heard me and started alerting his family.

I wonder how the beavers feel about their quacky tenants.

What wildlife have you seen lately?

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Every afternoon I let my flock free range and train them to the boundaries of the farm while I closely supervise them.   The ducks immediately go into the jungles of tall grass and start consuming hundreds of snails that they find on each blade of grass and on the soil.

The hens are a little bit fussy about where they go to find their dinner.

They prefer clover and small bugs in the short grass areas... at least for now while they get used to free ranging in a limited area.

Every time I count heads to make sure the flock is within the boundaries, I see duck butts.

There is no happier bird than a duck chowing down on nasty crop destroying snails.

The 2 new pullets have their own technique for bug searching. They head for the back of the garden and start their focused hunt for tasty crawling morsels and clovers.  These two work the area in a sophisticated grid.    Very different from the rest of the chicken group.

If you have a bad snail problem in your garden, get yourself some ducks.

Not only are they effective at eliminating destructive pests but these beautiful birds are fun to watch.

They continually talk to each other in quiet tones. It makes my heart happy to see and hear them. My blood pressure and stress is reduced when I sit and watch them do their happy work in the garden and on the edges of the woods.

After a few hours of grazing they both head to their little water tub and take a quick bath and then head out again to continue eliminating the massive snail population.
They are my super heroes.

Do you have a super hero in your garden?