2017 Year in Review

Welcome to the last part of the catalog that gets put together when all else has been done, and it always seems like there is so much to say and so many things you think you will never forget as the year progresses and then after spending night after night trying to write descriptions and correct my lousy typing my mind sort of goes into shut down mode. As the poultry saga goes we started 2017 where 2016 left off with a constant predator pressure. The opossums were decreasing in number (after we eliminated 25 in a month) but still a  constant issue. Fortunately, they only get a bird day but when we stopped removing them we had eliminated 31 opossums and that is a lot of eating. They became so bold that they would feed during the day. Our dogs are getting up there in years at 12 and 14 so they are not as active of protectors as they once were. The predators seemed to take advantage of this. Just when it looked like the predator situation was coming under control, Linda and I were coming home late one evening from a visit to Linda’s mothers when Linda commented “look at that ugly cat in the driveway “ my heart sank as I looked and saw none other than a mink. We live over a half mile from a stream and he must have followed up the ditch as we were in the midst of a winter thaw. Well he chose the golden road and discovered the gourmet deli. Despite everything we tried including the aide of a professional trapper he kept coming back every few days and in a systematic fashion would eliminate all of the breeds in a row of pens. Finally as spring arrived his visits became farther apart as he ran out of things to eat and he became so fussy.  At first as he attacked the bantams. He would get 3-4 breeds a night killing all members and only eating the heads of 1 or 2 birds. Then he got to where he would get the hens one night the roosters the next trip.  He only left when the badger made his annual spring trip to the farm to dig massive holes into the pens which then allowed a very educated family of raccoons to be able to walk into the pens and feast on what the mink had not killed previously. The first part of June I slept very little as I was constantly restless trying to find the time of the night I could catch things in the act. Some mornings when I would go down to do chores I would see so many species of tracks around the aisle ways between pens it became a refresher course from my graduate school when I had a game management course.  I got to use my old books to identify tracks. Finally by using marshmallows and maple syrup we caught the granddad, raccoon one night and then 2 days later the mother and father. I had seen many small tracks and knew we had lots of young raccoons and finally was woke up at 3:30 am the next morning to a pack of coyotes under our bedroom window. I was ready to give it all up as I thought what next. Low and behold the coyotes were an answer to prayer as they were catching the young raccoons and what they left of the young raccoons was not a pretty sight, strewn throughout the gardens. The coyotes left as fast as they came and we finally had some peace.  The badger returned to the backfield  to hunt gophers and ground squirrels and we had some peaceful days. I had stopped counting at the loss of 500 adult breeder birds so am not sure of the final total but it as disheartening and demoralizing to say the least. I would never wish an episode like that on anyone. I kept having to reflect on James 1:2-3 all about trials bringing strength to ones faith. No matter what we did or how did it the predators found  every tiny hole or way to penetrate the system and destroy.  As the predator trials were coming to an end our friends Mike and Annalisa were on a cross country trip and brought us a new puppy a pure bred English Shepherd.  Penny has adapted well to the farm and at 4 months treed her first opossum and at 5 months treed a raccoon.  Her continuous and daily desire to check on all aspects of the farm have been a blessing since our old dogs struggle to keep up with me doing chores. They still insist on being there with me each day but their days of capturing predators are since past.

 

Our source of contentment at the time came from the fabulous sweet potato slip crop we had going on  The garden got off to a late start but we plugged along with few issues. Most cannot even begin to comprehend how long it takes to coordinate plantings and  spacings by time and actual physical space for all of the varieties we grow and to have the time to  do it on the schedule we maintain.  School year ends around Memorial Day and then the full work day mode kicks in. The sweet potato slips keep us busy on Monday, Tuesday Wednesday and Friday which leaves Thursday the day to plant as well as Saturday. One cannot forget we also have chick hatches and eggs to set during this time and my Friday night of candling eggs each week. Anyhow the goal is always to get everything planted before July 1 and that is a dream that I doubt will ever occur.  We did finish up the sweet potatoes around July 3 and then there were still lots of tomatoes and peppers to set out and replant some things the rabbits snacked on.  Surprise of all surprises the rabbits this year focused on things other than the sweet potatoes except one row which they ate to the ground. The little critters decided to crop off tomato plants and peppers instead.  I cannot complain as the damage this year was far less than any in many years.  July was a great growing month and then August turned cool and dry.   Mild panic came in as the sweets looked healthy but the plants did not have a great deal of foliage.  Each day made it more and more nerve wracking and then September came and it warmed some and  the sweets seemed to not have much foliage but the lack of moisture forced root production instead of lots of vines and the crop went on to be the best we have ever had. Some yields left me speechless.  We never see scurf and other surface fungi now that we plant them later. When I used to fight the system so to speak and try to get them all planted in May when the ground is cold we had issues all of the time. Each year provides more and more wonderful opportunities to learn new things.

 

Our fall season seems to be better each year and we had a bountiful harvest on most everything. Some days I am very happy we do not get a  bumper crop on everything as I would never be able to get it all harvested.  My  co-worker at school our media specialist Sue Heilig  offered to help us upgrade our website so the first evidences of that appeared on January 12. Sue’s husband Tim is beyond a doubt the best tractor mechanic ever. He has diagnosed my tractor issues correctly every time. One time he diagnosed the problem from my pathetic description of the  issue over the phone when he was 1000 miles away on vacation. Our old website  was difficult to work with or make may substantial changes or add photos as it was in html language that only Linda could work on with her instructions we were given when it was set up in 2006.  Our new site has the ability to add photos and please give us some time to get going on that but at least now we can add photos and we will start adding the photos this year and hope  to get all things  up by 2020.  These will not be glamour shots or photo retouched but mostly scientific like pictures with rulers and such in the background . I am far more interested in historical documentation and not glossy touched up photos I see so much of on the internet these days. Our intent behind the photos will be to inform and provide historical documentation not to woo and lure you into purchasing  something.

 

We wish all the best for 2018 and we are anxiously awaiting for the first signs of spring. Each year as I clean the incubator for the last time of the season I always look forward to a break but  it doesn’t take long until the thought of newly hatched little poultry and the smell of fresh tilled soil brings  me out of the winter blues.

 

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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