A Winter's Tale

The end of a most challenging year has arrived. Over the past three weeks we have had more rain than in the last 12 months. The 16 acre lake at Rocky Branch has almost filled back up, but the 11 acre lake at home is still 5+ feet low. Despite the challenges, I would rather be farming and ranching than anything else.

Winter rye grass got just enough rain in the fall after planting to become established and there is a return of perennial clovers. As the weather moderates, and with fertilizer, we hope that these grasses will end the feeding of hay early in the spring or at least slow down hay consumption. We think we have enough hay to make it until we have grass. We started to feed in the summer, so it has been a long feeding season so far. We made a big investment in hay saver feeders in the fall that were advertised to save a minimum of 30 percent of the hay fed by avoiding waste by the cattle. As it turns out, we feel that the savings are closer to 40 percent. These hay savers may save us this year. We also welded a special elevated steel hay feeder for our goats and sheep that saves hay as they feed.

The fall calf crop is on the ground and we lost only three this year for various reasons and are thankful for that. Winter breeding starts in a few days. Our cattle sales in the year were good and we received honest prices. We have added a minature pot belly pig to our farm yard. It is so cute and at 4 months is full grown weighing perhaps 50 pounds. The drought and hard times have made people despirate in care of burros and horses. A burro was released on our road and after several weeks we brought in inside our fences. No one has claimed it and it seems at home here. I wanted to name it Christmas since iw was found so close to the holiday, but instead it has becomd Nick.

We sold all the grass fed beef we had availabel in the winter and early spring. We have a set of steers finishing now on alflafa. The drought made it a challenge to fatten them, but they are finally ready to harvest in sequenceby weight. The first are now ready to be harvested, packaged and picked up in January by our customers. We still have a number of steers available not yet ready for harvest and we will sell these by the split quarter of half. Our price remains $4.25/pound hanging weight wiht a 55 discount for orders of a halkf or more.

The blueberry patch survived the drought and has been brillant red with the change in foilage color. We will soon survey to see what plants must be repleased (not many). On the other hand, the blackberry patch suffered a lot of damage and there will be a significat replanting in January-February. Probably 75 percent of the plants. We have weed and grass cleaned each and every row of the berry patch by hand and mulched as needed. Our plan is to install new irrigation water distribution lines before April so we can better water the bushes in the summer. A lot depends on our lake recovering so we have water to irrigate with.

We did not plant vegetables in the fall due to the drought, but have most all the seeds ready to start plants in the greenhouse early in the winter for a spring garden. We think we will have a combination of on farm sales, sale at select farmer’s markets (Longview and on in the Dallas area) and a CSA deliver of vegetables in the warm season if we get our act together.

Our flock of baby chicks grew into mature layer chickens. They moved in our egg mobil and are laying very nice brown farm eggs daily. Eggs are available at the farm for $4/dozen. We have 145 layers more or less. a hen lays an egg about every 30 hours. As we have geen grass available we will move the egg mobil around to give the chickens fresh forage.

Almost every day we cut down another tree that died in the drought and they spoil the pastures with heaps of dead limbs and huge tree trunks. Clearing these up will take a lot of time next year. In the srping, we anticipate having many more to cut. A lot of these oaks afe over 75 years old and huge.

Eva’s Farm to Fork Cooking Classes ended in November and we deferred the special class using grass fed meats until 2012. Her new schedule will be on the website in a few weeks. No classes will be scheduled for January or December.

The cabin rental season slows after Thanksgiving and dies in December. The do not mind this due to catering obilgations in that month. We have taken measures to prevent water freezes in the cabins in the colder months and will rent in January and February (two night minimums). Winter is a special time on the farm and you see things that are normally covered in green vegetation. Winter nights are very clear and the stars seem expecially bright. A brisk evening by a campfire is really a neat experience.

As the year ends, we wish each of you that follow us on our blog or visit us on facebook a very Happy New Year.

Make our farm your farm in 2012.