Kingsolver Speak

"Whatever lofty things you might accomplish today, you will do them only because you first ate something that grew out of dirt."
Barbara Kingsolver

The End of July: Farm Life

The old saying that if you did not get all the rain you needed by June 30, don't expect it until the fall has been very correct. July has turned out to be a very dry and very hot month and now we are approaching or breaking daily temperature highs. This has its negative points and advantages.

On the plus side we were able to cut and bale hay without it getting wet. A late afternoon heat shower on the bales did not hurt the hay. On the negative side, we may not get a second cutting without significant rain. We cut 170 tons of hay on 75 acres (50 of which have had cattle grazing on it part of the time) versus cutting 279 tons last year the same time off 50 acres. Our first cutting was equally bad getting 14 tons versus 60 tons last May. As a measure point, each full grown cow needs 2 to 2.5 tons of hay in the winter assuming there is no stockpiled grass left on the paddocks for them to eat. So, we are short of what we need, but we have hay stored in barns that will bridge the gap if necessary. We try to maintain an extra year supply of hay all the time just incase we have a severe drought.

We have run into a problem moving the hay from the field to the barn and outside storage area. Last week, the seal on the rear end of the one tone hay trick that pulls the hay trailer started to leak. We got that repaired on Monday. Yesterday, much more serious, the front seal on the transmission started to leak, so the truck is parked in front of the garage for service tomorrow. Our neighbor has offered to swap one of our smaller trucks for his hay truck so we can move hay tomorrow.

As amazing as it sounds, we still have a lot of blueberries to pick. A large portion of the berry patch is finished, but there are hundreds of pounds of berries yet to be picked on the bushes. We remain open for pick-your-own until no one comes to pick. We are still getting a lot of figs and have sold every one picked.

Next week starts the pruning of the blackberries. This is a terribly difficult labor intensive task. Always done in August when it's so hot you you can cook an egg in the hood of a truck. Every cane that had a berry this year has to be cut out at ground level. All the grasses and weeds will be pulled and stray trees and such that came up in the patch have to be removed. This is all done by hand and on your knees. A final step will be to top trim the new cane growth to provide more branches for berries next year.

The University of Arkansas research station has analyzed the leaf samples we sent them and have not identified anything that may have caused the early die back this year. We have now sent them samples of the canes as there may be a fungus that gets into the canes and causes. Georgia Tech has performed a lot of research on this due to a problem in Georgia. It is is the problem, it can be treated with a simple fungicide that does no harm to the berry plant and you can still eat berries right off the plant next year.

The whole month of July our lakeside log cabins remained very busy with families and couples getting away for a few days to relax on the farm. Bookings on weekend in August remain strong, but weekday rentals are getting soft. We are still offering 10% off a four day stay on a Sunday through Thursday visit. The trails are mowed and the lake is as inviting as any in East Texas. Not cold, but at least wet.

The breeding season for spring caves ended this week. This was for a set of heifers and a few cows. The main herd of cows that will calve in the fall are eating a lot of grass. It seems to me more than normal. We finished a water gate on a creek that had highway access and can now let the cattle graze in a new paddock. It had grass over belly deep just a few days ago, but is now trimmed way back. I don't think we can keep the cows there for more than 10 days more. The beef steers are doing great grazing on bermuda, bahia and our new Red River Crab Grass. They look great for a fall harvest. Our cutting of alfalfa will soon be made and we ill have in in time to supplement our grasses to finish these beef steers on grass. if you have not ordered a quarter, now is the time to contact us.

We have two billy goats from Rocky Branch ion the barn doing rehab. The somehow split their hoofs and got maggots in them. We have cleaned them out (a lovely task) and they are recovering, but I think they will be here for at least a month more. When hoofed animals have this problem, you can smell them way before you can get near them.

Things that have to be accomplished ahead of us include moving the hay, pruning and weeding the blueberries and blackberries, repair of fences damaged during the breeding season (climbing bulls), rebuilding the road side fences by the goat paddock, cutting (to be split later) trees killed by lightening near fences and a big pine killed by pine beetles near the cabins, building a new fence and water fate at Rocky Branch in a creek that we have failed to be able to control, and trenching and installing a mile of pipe for a water distribution system at Rocky Branch for the cattle. All this and maintain Eva's flower gardens, mow 17 acres a week, weed trim, handle a hundred must do things you had not planed on, and...........

On these hot summer days, as we enter the dog days of August, we work patiently looking forward to a cooler September. Live on the farm, and the cycles of life and activities focus on we continue. If it were not for work, what would we do?