Heirloom Seeds & Poultry
1878 230th Street, Calamus, IA 52729
2020 Year in Review
2019 ended with continued health issues for Linda. December 31 her drain which was normally producing 5 to 10 mL of the material a day suddenly stop producing the foul-smelling brown liquid and produced just a few drops of blood. We had been told in early December she would have a drain the rest of her life. Early in the morning of January 1 I called the University of Iowa Hospital and told them the change in the situation. They said since she didn't have a fever they couldn't see here until Friday, January 3. My nightly 9 pm routine had become emptying and cleaning the drain and recording the volume to report to the hospital what was going on. Now, it was just a few drops of blood by evening and nothing overnight when she wasn't moving around much. On January 3 when we went to the University of Iowa hospital they reported that we had a miracle as everything inside had healed. The fistula which she had had for over a year was gone and the tiny bit of blood in her drain was from the drain rubbing the healed tissue. What we thought was going to be a life long thing to deal with started off the new year with a pleasant change. While things will never be as good as before it all started back in 2018 at least life is back close to normal.
The Covid experience meant that last day of face to face teaching for me was March 13. So what was supposed to be a couple of weeks shutdown turned into the rest of the year. My student helpers became bored and in between our zoom lessons they came to work some days and we started the poultry building projects. I had been so pleased with the one we finished shortly after Christmas now known as building 10 and the prototype building 6 that we finished in mid December 2019 that I was determined to get as many done as possible. I am not very gifted at building and when Gavin was able to join us working it was obvious who should be doing the job. I soon realized Austin and I should be doing other things and cleanup work and tearing down old buildings and let Gavin do the quality work. We started getting almost 1 16 foot by 48 foot building done a month. Once we got started and chores seemed so much easier and the chickens happier it was a quest of mine to get them all done as soon as possible. By summers end we had in addition to buildings 6 and 10, buildings 1,2,3 and 9 done and a new 10 foot by 36 foot brooder house. We also had buildings 4,5 and 7 started and the ground leveled for buildings 11 and 12. Fall is always crazy and less time for me and fewer hours for my helpers so the process slowed down. December 28 just 2 hours before our first major snow we finished building 7. So, by years end the place was beginning to look nothing at all like it did the year before. Birds were happier, I was super happy and lots of good things were happening. I discovered that with the buildings running west to east and 2 foot wire windows the full length on the north and south side the air flow was great on hot humid days and the birds were far more comfortable in the heat and the gnats didn’t settle into the pens like they did in the older buildings with no flow through breeze. I plan on a blog discussing how to build such buildings in the near future.
The planting season seemed to get off to a slow start but we eventually got everything in by early July and then had some dry spells. The morning of August 10 it was exceptionally hot and very humid and very still. I discussed with my helpers that things were not looking good as a very strange looking cloud bank started moving in. I looked at the radar on my phone about 11:30 and was shocked to see how a tiny little cell in southeastern South Dakota at 4:30 that morning instead of fizzling out like they said it was supposed to do developed into a huge complex with a horrible bow shape and the point of the bow was headed directly for our county. We had a mini weather lesson in the garden and I immediately sent the helpers home and told them to take cover. Sure enough about 1 it hit and hit hard. We had winds in excess of 100 mph for over 45 minutes. Linda and I were in the basement and many times I was not so sure that the house was not going to get destroyed. When I carefully surfaced from the basement and peaked around it was a changed world. We had lost power half way in the storm and once I saw the outside world with all of the trees down I feared what I would find at the other end of the property where all of the poultry buildings and seed storage are. The barn is old and I was sure it would be in chunks everywhere with dead birds galore. I feared our new poultry buildings would be leveled as well. I was especially sure that the old house which is now where all of the seeds are stored would be destroyed as there are 2 very large maple trees just to the west of it. What a blessing when I got to the place where I could see all buildings were still standing and no damage. The trees west of the seed office lost a number of limbs and a very large limb came down just off the southwest corner of the roof making only a few dents in the metal roofing. We were truly blessed. I then decided to check on the sheep, cow and pigs and they were all okay and I then decided to go over the hill and check the crops in the back field. Only to discover the short walk was a lot longer and there were many trees down and the pathway was totally impassable. I managed to get over trees and saw what appeared to be total devastation as the tall corn and sorghum were all within 6 inches of the ground. Bush bean plants were literally torn out of the ground. Squash and melons were rolled around.
I then remembered I had incubators full of hatching chicks and no power. So with a flashlight took out all the chicks that had hatched to get what orders packed and ready. We realized why our power would be out for a time as our neighbor down the road was building a new house and the house was destroyed and wrapped around the power lines. Live power lines blocked the road for a number of hours Several days without power but I Ieft the eggs in the setting incubator and was surprised after all that time without power when it kicked on again ( after about 50 hours) about 20% of them hatched on the next hatch 2 weeks later.
The real damage was to our sweet potato collection. For the first time in many years I tried to get it all organized with a back up plant of each variety in the greenhouse. The Friday before the Derecho I dumped out all the backup plants in the greenhouse and replanted each with fresh soil and a fresh plant from the starting bed. Then that Saturday I tilled up the starting bed and planted a cover crop. Sunday in anticipation of upcoming rain I tilled next to the plastic of the rows and in my loose sandy soil to get the weeds. Our soil always works best if it is not disturbed after a rain as a crust forms on the sand and traps the moisture. Just a little tilling after a rain and it wicks all the moisture away. Well the 100 mph winds lifted the loose dry sand and blew it everywhere and then latched onto the black plastic that the sweet potatoes are planted on and wrapped them up like a soft shell taco. It did the same with tomatoes and wrapped the tomatoes and tomato cages as well as peppers and eggplant and left a giant ugly mess. Where I had tilled we lost almost all of the sweet potatoes but being stubborn I tried refitting the plastic and replanting as many as I could. The areas I did not till up are the only areas we ended up getting anything mentionable as for roots in the fall. Meanwhile with all of the stress of the derecho and trying to find enough water for all of the poultry and livestock I totally forgot to water the greenhouse and with no power , there was no fan and no water so about mid day the second day I got my brain to work and opened the greenhouse where my maximum minimum thermometer said 140 ˚F. And things were bone dry and most of the new plants were dead. Needless to say we lost a lot of rare material even pointing more to the fact we cannot be the only source of so many things. As someone told em one bad experience, storm, fire or something and over 700 varieties of plants could suddenly become extinct.
The rest of the season was cleanup storm damage and try to make the best of the harvest. 2020 ended with the world still in a pandemic and the farm slowly taking on a a new look in the poultry world. Poultry chores were becoming easier, life was getting simpler.