It is our sincere hope that each and every one of our customers takes the time to read this section of our catalog. The few minutes that it takes to read this will help provide you with a better understanding of our operation and will communicate to you how we operate. We are not a large operation and all of the work is done by Linda and me with occasional inputs from outside sources. The family consists of myself (Glenn) and my wife, Linda. Our two grown sons, Nick and Cory (married to Cheryl and a granddaughter Lilly) are no longer living at home. We are not a wholesale seed company nor are we a large hatchery. We are genetic preservationists that are in this for the genetic diversity of this planet we all call home. We produce all of our own eggs for our hatches, tend all of our own flocks, weed and care for the seed crops and produce around 90% of the seed which we sell. We also work with several close friends to produce some rare and unusual items to help give you a better variety. We purchase a few common varieties of nontreated seed to expand our offerings. We use these common items in our growouts to run comparison tests against the heirlooms. We also raise and maintain a few common breeds of poultry. Mostly this is for comparison purposes with the heritage breeds of poultry. But, they are also maintained and sold here for the 4-H young people who need them for show in the meat and egg-laying classes at the fair. This way they can place one order and be able to obtain both common breeds and rare breeds in the same order. One of our main focuses in our business is education. Working closely with the young people in 4-H gives us an opportunity to encourage them to consider maintaining rare breeds. After all, the future of the poultry fancy is, indeed, our young people.
Our primary mission is the preservation of our genetic resources. It is difficult to find the time and resources to do that properly and we need to set limits on what we can do and then do it right. You will notice that periodically we have to change our plan and do things a little differently. For example, we will again be producing all of our sweet potato plants in the field. This means a stronger healthier plant for the customer and gives us greenhouse space to start other things. However, this means we will never have plants earlier than late May or early June if we have cool temperatures in May.
2012 - The Year in Review
Many of our customers keep asking how things are going and what it takes to keep things running around here. For our continuing customers, the following summary will fill you in on the past year. For our new customers, it will, hopefully, give you a feel for what life is like here on the preservation center.
When I first spotted this farm and walked around it in the early Fall of 1988, I knew it was perfect for what I wanted to do. 1988 was the driest year that this county has ever seen --- and what a perfect time to look at a piece of sandy ground! The farm had been no-tilled and chemically sprayed into soil sterility but it didn't kill the sandburs and horse nettle and other obnoxious pests like the corn root worm beetles. In spite of all of these gallons of spray that had been applied, the plant and animal pests abounded. But the living part of the soil - the natural microbes and earthworms - were missing. My first growing year provided many challenges. First and foremost, who would ever think sand would be nearly impossible to dig in because it was so hard? Well, it was. All of the years of chemical abuse had left the soil worm-free and hard as concrete. I had what I called my worm line, the area near the farm buildings where worms flourished and then BAM! you get to the edge of the growing area and nothing. I am pleased to report that 20 years later I have finally accomplished one goal. The soil is now loose and useable and you can go just about anywhere and find earthworms. "Life" has returned to the farm. I was initially encouraged by many to get rid of the remaining 2 acres of locust and mulberry woods on the top of the hill and turn it into pasture. I also fought pressure and turned 0.7 acres in the back field back to nature because it kept flooding every year. After three years in a row of losing whatever was planted there it just made sense to let nature have it back. As a scientist, it has been very interesing to see ecological succession take place and now there are trees and shrubs all brought in by the wind and by animals. There are some native grasses and flowers and one day last summer I counted 3 species of song birds nesting there that had not been seen for several years anywhere in this area.
The farm was originally set up with several goals in mind. First and foremost, it was to be a preservation facility for rare and endangered poultry, livestock and vegetable and fruit crops. Second, it was to be an educational outreach to show what can be done with sustainable organic methods. Third, I wanted to provide a small sanctuary for some of the native plants and animals in the area. It is tough for snakes and sand turtles to make a go of it in mile after mile of crop ground. I can honestly report that we have made great progress in all areas. After many years of chemical abuse, the sandburs on this farm were at a high number. Through our cultivation and rotation and natural practice I think I found just 3 plants this past summer. In a 10 foot stretch of a corn row in 1988, when I toured the place, I had seen more than 3 plants. Our poultry preservation has far surpassed its goal. We are pleased that so much interest in rare poultry has taken some of the strain off of us to be the only ones maintaining certain breeds. Now, 20 years later, many breeds which were once near extinction are now found everywhere.
It is our hope that this year, as the world thinks more and more about going green, that each and every one of you will take a minute to think about what he or she can do for our planet. Maybe it is putting up a bird feeder or raising a plant that attracts butterflies or just some small start. Those who have the means can tackle something bigger like adopting a rare breed of livestock or taking on a seed saving project. If each of us does just one thing, it will make the whole world a better place for centuries to come.
Enough of the soap box, now to our year in review. We get e-mails and notes from many of you saying that this is the part of the catalog that you enjoy reading and look forward to each year. One person described it as being like getting a Christmas letter from family. We like to think that our operation is a bit different and we realize our style and way of doing business does not appeal to everyone. We specialize in old and rare material from days gone by from a simpler time before cell phones, computers, e-mail and all of the other instant access electronics. We tend to operate like the material we propagate - - - a little behind the times.
Each and every year provides some exciting new experiences and new things to learn. 2012 was no exception. We had the mildest winter ever and, being the skeptic I am about such things, I just kept thinking that the next week would bring the cold and miserable weather, but we saw the coldest being -6 deg. F. This was a welcome treat from the past years of record setting cold and long spells of subzero nastiness. Both the poultry and myself enjoyed it tremendously. None of us enjoy chores at 5:00 AM when it is -25 deg. F and the wind is blowing. Our hatching season started out with the record setting numbers and things looked great. March was unreal - a few cold days at the start then a streak of over 7 straight days above 80 deg. F, which made it seem like mid June. Every tree on the farm bloomed to the fullest capacity from the tiniest peach to the oldest apple and it was a gorgeous sight. I keep a record of average flowering dates and we were a full month ahead on most species. How odd it was to have the average temperature be warmer in March than April as it seemed like for every 80 degree day in March we had a night time low in April in the 20's. All the wonderful fruit kept getting thinned more and more. I was looking at a bumper apricot, peach and sweet cherry crop and my mouth was drooling at the prospect of trying all of the different varieties of fruit we would have. Each night April temps got colder and colder and the apricots, which had reached quarter size, soon froze solid and fell off as did all of the cherries and plums. One crazy yellow fleshed peach still held on as did some Depression White peaches. Some of our apple and pear trees actually rebloomed and gave a nice crop. Great year for data and I will always remember those warm March days and fragrant and beautiful flowers. The fruit we did get tasted great, and perhaps even better, knowing what challenges it overcame.
The poultry world took a turn for the worse when we had two very large incubator malfunctions. One took the entire goose hatch for one hatch and half of another as a thermostat stuck after a thunderstorm and baked everything. The other was one of those technology nightmares that leaves you guessing when one of our set thermometers recalibrated itself to 105.6 deg. F and took out two hatches of part of the chicken hatches where a section of the eggs were set. The soon to be summer heat stopped the egg production in the waterfowl and turkeys and curtailed many chickens as we had so many days of heat. Days above 100 deg. F really have an impact and hatches dwindled to new lows. As they always say in the farming world, there is always next year. We are hopeful for a better hatch season in 2013. We have also seemed to become the corner deli for predators and a live trap purchased in May is now constantly set and frequently catches a problem raccoon, opossum or skunk.
The summer drought was huge and we cannot water all of our seed production areas. We must wait to plant our corns until after the local field corn is at a certain stage and this year when that time came we did not get any rain for days and then just dribbles (not enough to bring the seed up) until late July. Then it stopped raining again in September followed by the earliest super cold I have recorded here with 29 deg. F on September 23 and the next day 25 deg. F and total death to all frost crops. Our tomatoes were a near total wipe out suffering from a plague of rabbits nibbling the transplants, drought, then loaded with green fruits and a killing frost. We were never able to plant some isolation gardens as, with our sand, there was never enough rain to make the soil wet enough to allow for germination. In desperation I did plant 3 isolation plots July 17 and, had the frost not come until the usual time, we would have had good success. As it is, we did get some return on many varieties.
We did get our new sweet potato greenhouse up and running by May 7 and are anxious for 2013 to use it to its fullest extent. We had Japanese beetles that were in numbers that would remind one of the Old Testament plagues. Many trees in the area were totally defoliated. We again learned a lot. I always try to make even the worst situations be a good chance to learn something and take some data.
We were pleased to have several encounters with the ever shrinking Box Turtle population and were fortunate to see a few rare species of snakes. One beautiful Blue Racer snake took up residence in the sweet potato beds by the variety Wilma so we called her that. Normally they are a spooky, wild snake, but she was rather personable. Our first wild turkey nested and reared a few poults in our small wildlife area.
We approach 2013 with great hope and anticipation and ready for the challenges it may provide. Each year provides us with some great new opportunities for learning and sharing that knowledge again from experience with others. Thanks so much to all who support and pray for us. We greatly appreciate it.
We are extremely grateful for our workers that help us out when the season dictates. I remember the days when I would personally pack each packet and fill each seed order. Then Linda started helping and now during the peak of the season, I just check each order for accuracy and substitutions. We are thankful for Rhonda, Teri, Caryol, and Barb, who have all figured out they can do what only I used to do. I must also thank Colton, Nick and Jacob who help me move manure and birds on the weekends and help with the setting out and harvesting of all those seed crops. Saturdays in the Spring and Fall are not easy days. We also must thank Joel, our computer guru, and Bob, who can build or fix anything. Those two are never smart enough to not answer the phone when I call. We are also grateful for all those people who help us grow a few of the extra special things that we just can't get all done here. Many of our growers also had their own challenges with the weather this year. That is why so many things may be unavailable for 2013. Hopefully, we will have good weather this year all across the country and everyone's gardens will flourish! Have a great 2013!
Best Wishes - Glenn and Linda Drowns
THE POST OFFICE AND MAILING
It may seem convenient and cheaper to e-mail and, yes, it can be a whole lot faster. What I think most folks are forgetting is each time we don't use "snail mail" (as it has come to be called) we increase the price of the material that must go through the mail. We can e-mail you a poultry confirmation and save 45 cents in the form of a stamp. What happens in the long run is the post office has to raise the rates on packages to cover the cost, so it ends up still costing more and more to get those baby chicks and seeds. This is one of the reasons that we will continue to only accept orders via the US mail. We have to use their services to send you our product and we whole heartedly support them and their work. Recent talks hae been to cut mail service to 5 days a week. If they chose to not deliver mail on Tuesdas the baby chick industry will be in big trouble as we will have very limited opportunities to get the babies to you alive. While it may sound corny and odd, until we can all be like Star Trek and get beamed up, you are still going to have to wait for your seeds and chicks to come in the mail. So, have patience and just relax. Send your order in by mail, support the system and support jobs and post offices.
DROUGHT OF 2012
The long, hot drought of 2012 followed by a record early cold frost had serious impacts upon both our seed production and our poultry production for this year. The prolonged heat stopped the poultry from producing eggs and the eggs that were obtained did not hatch as well. Our seed crops were hit with the heat and drought affecting both plant growth and eventual seed production. In some cases we were not even ablt to plant the crops, as without at least 0.75 inches of rain per week on our sand not much of anything will survive. We were also plagued by an extremely high rabbit population tht devoured many of our sweet potato plants. In some cases we had to plant the sweet potatoes 5 times due to the rabits eating them off and they ran out of time to mature with the early frost. We are working on the rabbit situation and are making plans to deal with another drought should it occur.
Most of the seed varieties in the catalog have days to maturity listed beside them. That is based upon our data here at the farm. Glenn is an avid weather observer and offer the following climate information for the serious gardener trying to determine if a variety will grow for them in their locale. We have decided to add the data for the entire year because that is also an integral part of what the poultry can and do handle.
- Average Last Spring Frost (32) - Apr. 25
- Average First Fall Frost (32) - Oct 2
- Days between 32 degree frosts - 159/li>
- Actual killing frosts (28 deg. or colder) this year were April 12 and September 24.
- May to September we average 21.5 inches of rain.
- Some years have brought much more rain, other times we can have long, dry spells.
Sand Hill Preservation Center Climate Data
Figures for 2012 are in parentheses "( )"
|Month||Ave. High||Ave. Low||Total Precip.|
|Jan.||28 (35)||14 (15)||1.43 (0.83)|
|Feb.||34 (37)||21 (21)||1.60 (1.28)|
|Mar.||48 (63)||29 (42)||2.80 (2.72)|
|Apr.||61 (62)||39 (39)||3.67 (3.74)|
|May||74 (79)||52 (54)||4.28 (2.49)|
|Jun.||83 (85)||61 (63)||4.89 (1.73)|
|Jul.||86 (94)||65 (70)||3.41 (0.92)|
|Aug.||84 (86)||63 (59)||5.48 (4.97)|
|Sep.||76 (77)||54 (47)||3.36 (1.48)|
|Oct.||64 (62)||42 (37)||2.67 (3.60)|
|Nov.||45 (37)||29 (27)||2.75 (0.97)|
We typically start planting Spring crops in early April and dig our last Fall root crops in mid-November. Winter lowest temperature is generally in the range of -20 to -25°F with the coldest being -37°F. Summer time temperatures above 100°F are rare, but it has reached 105°F.