2018 YEAR IN REVIEW

Wow, how technology has changed things. In the old days this was always the last page of the printed catalog that was done and it was  made to last the length that it took to make the catalog meet the 8 page increment requirements.  It started out as filler  to reach the requirements and then pretty soon it became something people requested to just see what was going on. It is no secret we do not try to mimic  other operations in our business style or practices. Our operation is entirely unique and different and we have no real desire to make  a Fortune 500 company out of it. Our mission as is stated many times is plain and simple to  preserve genetic material for future generations and  to educate on the need for that.  We try to grow as much of our seed as we can here which limits just how big we can grow  and  we are constantly looking for ways to take the genetic material we preserve and  make it known to the world. We have maintained many breeds of poultry for years when there was absolutely no demand or desire to have them and have been pleased in recent years to see a sudden realization of their value. That is great and if it gets spread around and we are no longer the only source that is great. Our offerings are not driven by sales or glamour  or glitzy sales  ads but  by the dedication to preserve until the need and worthiness is finally realized by the general population.  While we no longer mail out bulk catalogs and will continue to only produce a few for those who  have limited internet or no internet access we will increase our information available  on the website. We will no longer be bound by  expense of 8 page catalog increments.  We  will expand information and photos as we can. 2018 with all of the health issues with Linda's surgeries and many hours spent in hospitals instead of the field not as much got done as I had hoped. We will do our best to try and improve on that this summer God willing and Linda's health continuing to  improve. 

2018 was by far the most challenging year we have had for sometime. If it could go wrong it seemed to. It all started early on when we switched to this more user friendly website and my limited tech skills caused me to not connect it to the Google search engine properly and we totally disappeared from the web in about 3 weeks. I was so bogged down in trying to get things done I didn't realize it until Linda said we kept getting calls and emails that people could not find us. I blamed it on the  new website but did not realize we really and truly were disappearing. When it was discovered as I searched for a variety that should have shown up in a Google search  and we did not. I was frustrated and found the issue  but then we had to totally start over with Google and work our way back to what had taken 14 years to reach.  It cost us a lot financially  as we lost the prime part of the garden seed sales season. The Linda got sicker and sicker and then the disaster of the surgery  and botched repair job and then the 13 days in a  coma and yet a third hospital and  the long long summer of constant  issues from the botched surgeries. All in all the mink was reappearing at an irregular rate and feasting and devouring entire breeds.  It was frustrating and very tiring. I seemed to operate on adrenaline alone. Sleep became something of a rare item and  more than once it seemed like things were  a total mess. I never knew which disaster or bad news the next day would bring. A typical day started at 4:30 with chores and such and then try to  get as much field work done as possible and head off to a hospital where ever Linda might be that day. It was rough when she was 90 minutes one way away and  so each day I would leave by 3 pm and I deeply counted on Ethan to gather eggs and I would return at dark to lock up birds and do  the rest of chores, crash and start all over again the next day. We spent many hours trying to outsmart the mink and he would vacation elsewhere for awhile and then return. The garden and seed crops suffered  and sadly after years of not being able to get enough sweet potato slips to meet the demand we had a 10 fold amount above the demand that we had. Thousands went  to waste. It  was great to have such a surplus but sad to think back on how many times we really needed  them .  It was truly the bright spot in the whole summer to have been blessed with such a bountiful crop of slips. We have focused heavily on trying to upgrade the sweet potato section of the website as they are so crucial to be spread around. Unlike seeds where if you get tired or bored can shove them in the freezer and wait a few years they have to be grown each year  and they are somewhat labor intensive. Sweet potatoes are the sixth most depended upon food crop worldwide and we have so many diverse varieties so adapted to so many situations we really want to make sure the material is maintained for future generations. 

We ended the growing season with nearly 25 inches of rain in 6 weeks and even though we have sand it was a challenge to get the crops harvested  and we lost some beans to mold and the sweet potatoes which normally come out of the ground clean and  smooth had wet dirt stuck to them this year.  I have learned long ago to be happy when you get rain and appreciate each day for what we are given. I remember well the droughts of 1987 and 1988 . It was September 1988 when I first looked at this 40 acre farm and it had been a rough summer and this poor old place cried out from the years of chemical abuse and was a weed paradise and soil about as sterile as it could be. The  droughts made land prices crash which is what made it possible to get this place and  I guess something good can come from any disaster you just have to try to look for the good and pray for the best result possible.

December 5, 1988 was the date of signing the papers for this place  and the beginnings of the  operation.  In those early days it was  slow going. The farm had been let go since 1951 with next to no upkeep and  I was a  fourth year teacher making about $15,000 a year. Every extra penny was put into  rehab and preservation. I have near zero mechanical and carpenter skills but suddenly was thrust into a  desperate situation where  it was becoming obvious that poultry breeds were disappearing faster than  imagined and I only  had a small old barn. A great friend and teaching partner  helped show me how to build some simple structures and after the first one I struck out on my own to build the largest collection of poultry shanties possible. With no budget it meant finding old farms and tearing down  old buildings that people didn't want. So the first structures built to house the rapidly  increasing poultry flocks were  made from lumber in many cases 100 years old and already well past its prime and  friends and former students would find old sheet metal  from old metal roofs  so the material again was well past its prime  and now 30 year later  things are in sad need of repair.  I have learned enough to make a slightly better quality building and taller as ( as the original buildings were short to save time and money on supplies.  So I have decided to start rebuilding the poultry pens to a more usable size and functional and less places for mink to enter. The current pens each have a door entering outside and with freezing and thawing the cracks get big enough critters can get in.  I am hopeful now to make buildings that  will have one door to enter  and individual pens inside. The waterfowl of course will have outside access to  water. The plan is to start the replacement process this year and work as time and funds become available to have all structures replaced by the time I retire from teaching in 2024.  We have to get better places to make things more predator proof. It has been far to painful to deal with  the issues of the mink  and other predators the past few years.

With  the chance to do a weekly update in the News and Updates section each week the old Year in Review will eventually become outdated. We are  both so very thankful and humbled by the  many cards and well wishes received during Linda's long and trying 2018. Words cannot express the gratitude and uplifting experiences that brought during this past year of very challenging times. We are hoping and praying 2019 will be much better than 2018 for everyone.

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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