2010 Year in Review

2010 began where 2009 left off, with another old fashioned Midwestern winter.  I remember fondly the  late 1980’s and early 1990’s  when we had lots of brown or mostly brown winters.  Lately we have been having snow on the ground for several months.  We have also had more all time record cold since the mid 1990’s.   The winter of 2009/2010 was not as bad  as the previous, but I must be getting older as I just don’t have the same feeling for  -20 deg. anymore.  Breaking ice in frozen poultry waterers at 5 AM when it is in the teen’s below zero is just not one of my favorite things to do.   Those of you who live where such things don’t happen or are fortunate enough to have a warm, insulated building for your poultry can count yourselves fortunate.   

 

Our hatching season started off on a great note despite February being colder than normal. It looked like we were headed for our best hatching season ever. The old adage “Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched” kicked in when we averted a near major disaster in early April when I was checking everything just prior to calling it a night and noticed the main chicken incubator reading 104 deg. F. The incubator has four separate mercury based set control thermometers.  It took a few minutes to locate which one had malfunctioned.  It then took another hour to confirm the problem that the mercury had separated.  Had I not checked when I did instead of losing only part of the hatch we would have lost it all and the next one as well.  We soon became perplexed that the ducks and geese were not hatching well. Lots of fertile eggs that developed near full term and then no hatchlings.  All of the time a couple of breeds were hatching  decent and the  rest were doing horrible.  Finally one day in June my brain kicked in and I realized the breeds hatching well were getting turkey breeder feed  while the others were supposed to be getting a special ration for waterfowl breeders.  I quickly switched all to the turkey breeder and  by Fall, once we got through the summer’s heat, hatches picked up to at least normalcy.  We are sure hoping all will go well in 2011.  Our other hatching disaster came in two fold, the first was major. We had an extra mild and wet April which made it impossible to get our manure pile entirely hauled  to the garden.  The manure pile sets just downhill from the turkey pens.  For years I have helped local people diagnose a typical problem that occurs around here in wetter than normal Springs.  We get a huge population of gnats that descend on everyone and everything near any sort of standing water.  I have seen entire flocks of poultry, usually young stock, wiped out as these blood sucking little insects swarm the buildings in the evening. I have seen birds so covered with gnats they are unidentifiable.  I had never had the problem here at our farm but have always been very cautious and have run fans in the young stock houses as gnats hate air movement.  Well, this year it was my turn as we had about ten days when the air was still in the evening and the gnats were so bad they would swarm any and everything, but they seemed to be particularly fond of the turkeys.  It was all I could do to do chores in the evenings.  I tried sprays, etc. and failed to get them under control. Over the course of the ten   days of prime gnat reproducing weather we lost over 30% of our breeder turkeys. The remaining were not in a good frame of mind to lay many eggs and most soon gave up for the year. Therefore, our turkey hatches were sort of a bust this year.  As the summer days grew warmer and warmer many breeds continued to lay but in the hot sticky days and sultry nights we started losing fertility rather quickly.  Chicken hatches soon tumbled but then bounced back in late September and October.

 

On the garden front we had one of our best years ever for many crops.  Our tomatoes were not the greatest for several reasons, some weather related, some insect related, and some poor planning on my part.  Peppers grew fast and furious and then we had problems getting fruit set and many fruit fell off in the young stages in early August.  The plants were all loaded with fruit at frost time with mountains of peppers when the frost came.  While our two stable crops were not the greatest, we had the best corn, melon and squash year we have had in some time and in some cases the best dream world possible. Our isolation patches of muskmelons and watermelons  provided huge harvests, enough in most cases for the rabbits,deer, groundhogs, gophers, mice, voles, rats, wild turkeys, pheasants,opossums and all the other creatures of our farm to have a feast and still leave us a good supply of seed.  I have never in all my years seen okra do as well as it did this year.  We switched our back 10 acre hayfield into one acre strips to work on studying crops for soil building and provided more isolation space for various crops.  I expected next to nothing this first year, but thanks to the 19 loads of cow manure I purchased from a former student down the road we had some of the most incredible looking crops anywhere. It was truly amazing and a blessing.  Combine the fertile soil with adequate rainfall and thanks to our generous donors our newly purchased “real” plastic layer that fits behind out tractor we were able to pull off some unreal yield of some crops, particularly okra.  We will be sharing our abundance with all of you as each seed order will get an extra packet of free seed from one of the crops we were blessed to have an abundance of. We are continued to be blessed with good help, both adults and student helpers. Natalie, Wendy and Teri continue to help get seed orders ready for me to check over.  Natalie and Wendy also help picking beans and corn and help to clean seed.  Colton has been a fast learner and was a huge help getting all of the crops in this Fall or doing chores so I could process seed. Gunner and Jostin also helped to keep the harvest moving along with harvesting on weekends. We all sampled more melons than most people do in a lifetime.   We could not  have gotten through it all with out all of our dedicated workers. 

 

Best wishes for a bountiful harvest in 2011 from  

 

Glenn and Linda Drowns

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Sand Hill Preservation Center

Heirloom Seeds & Poultry

1878 230th Street

Calamus, IA 52729

563-246-2299

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