Heirloom Seeds & Poultry
1878 230th Street, Calamus, IA 52729
2019 Year in Review
2019 provided some challenges, learned some things and provided some successes. Each and every year provides the opportunity to learn more and expand the knowledge base about many items. Just when you think you have learned it all there is a reminder of things that come up that you never dreamed of.
The year stated out dealing with Linda’s on going medical issues that began in April 2018. Her 7 month hospital stay left her weak and unable to do much and needing a lot of care when she returned home in November. She still had a lot of trouble walking and things most of us take for granted were very tough. Finally in March she was able to start doing a bit of driving and doing more for herself, but we still had to deal with many trips to the University of Iowa hospital and just when we would think things were improving we would get a set back. Drains came out in May and we were excited only to see her health start slipping gradually until mid July when we were back at the hospital again for more drains and a short stay. First of August drains out again which I thought was too early and sure enough there were issues and another hospital stay in mid August. Every six weeks to the hospital for a drain check and finally in early December they told us she would never heal internally and would have a drain the rest of her life. Not what we hoped to hear but faced the reality of every 6 weeks to the hospital for tests and a drain check. As the year started with health issues it ended on a weird note and a miracle. On December 31 out of the blue the drain stop producing the foul smelling material and started producing blood. We had become accustomed to expecting the worst and feared the next day we would be hospital bound for who knows what or how long. I called the hospital and because she wasn’t running a temperature they would not see her until Friday January 3. Again preparing for the worst we headed off not knowing when things would ever get back to normal. Miracle of all miracles occurred as suddenly everything had healed and the blood was from the drain rubbing on newly healed tissue. What a great way for 2019 to end with the miracle that God provided. All of those trips and hospital stays took its toll on my thinly spread time on the farm and things just didn’t get done. In 2018 with being on limited time spending so much time away from home even daily repairs got far behind and seed production was minimal. I typically work 13-14 hours per day so when summer comes that is all spent on the farm and in 2018 that got cut to 6-8 hours per day and things did suffer. Daily maintenance of poultry buildings that were in bad shape fell out of the spectrum of getting done. The winter of 2019 was brutal from mid January on and by months end we were deep in snow and -30 . When I first built the poultry buildings back in the early1990’s I used a lot of very old lumber and metal from dilapidated barns and buildings I could tear down for free. Budget was tight and the need to find a place for the rapidly disappearing poultry varieties was going faster than I could build. Mistakes, mistakes and more mistakes as I really did not know how to build and used 8 foot landscape timbers for building support and had flat faced front buildings that were short at the back end to get a proper pitch for snow and rain removal. I realized at the middle of February 2019 with over 150 pen doors opening to the outside and snow and ice in front of each I spent way too much time each day chipping ice to get the doors open to feed and water. I also realized at age 57 how was I going to do this until I could walk no more. I have stooped so much to do chores I no longer walk upright. I knew it was time for a change. Do I put more money into rotting decomposing buildings or try to make something to last until I can no longer do chores. In May I started a proto type building with one outside door and 8 pens inside just to see how it would work. Time slipped away and it never got finished until Thanksgiving. A center aisle way and pens on each side with one outside odor, was amazing to do chores. No more standing out side in the rain taking care of each pen, I could do 8 pens inside standing upright and not get soaked in the rain and out of the wind when wind chill was -30. February 2019 brought a new low temperature of -36 with some wind, one day the wind chill was -55. That does not make chores at 5 am a fun experience. I remember more than one morning doing chores ( it takes 2 to 2.5 hours) and having my eye lashes freeze together and having to duck into the greenhouse to thaw my eyelashes so I could see again.
Christmas break was so warm this year that instead of doing what is traditional of cleaning and processing seed and working on the website and catalog I put up another building with 16 pens in it. Safer for the poultry and so much easier to do chores. Plan is to keep building as time and funds allow to make both the poultry safer from predators and make it easier to get things done. With only one outside opening door it is easier to keep out the critters than having individual outside doors that every raccoon, opossum, skunk, fox, badger, coyote, mink, stray dog, feral cat and you name it can easily get in. I spent so much time trying to reinforce doors to keep predators out and it still was difficult. Lots of wasted time and many times futile efforts. I am anxious to get all the buildings done and do chores with less effort and more success hopefully on keeping things predator proof.
Time was spent rejuvenating poultry flocks from the great mink and raccoon disasters of 2017 and 2018. Problem is still many of the facilities were not predator proof so we lost a large number to the smartest raccoon ever. Labor Day weekend just before sunrise there was no water at the farm end so I (not using good judgement) thought the points of the pressure switch in the well pit may have gotten stuck as we use a lots of water and the pump kicks on and off a lot. I opened the door climbed down in was on my knees tapping the pressure switch when I felt a brush of fur against my back. Thinking it was our new dog Penny and that she had figured out how to climb a ladder I looked only to find a large raccoon climbing the ladder next to me. Mind you the well pit is only about 6 feet by 6 feet. It was an amazing thing she didn’t rip me to shreds as I turned around and saw 5 young half grown babies at my backside. Somehow she had figured how to get in there. It taught me a lesson as I reinforced the lid and now carefully look before I jump into the unknown. Mother raccoon eluded me all Fall killing things here and there and avoiding traps or springing any type of trap I could find. A mean and malicious eater she did her share of destruction for the rest of 2019.
Garden successes were great with a very late start to the season. It seemed like things would never all get planted. Finally after continuous rainy spells whenever I had a chance to plant I did. The evening of July 4 I did something I said I would never do, that being use the lights on the tractor and work up areas to plant after dark. Kind of interesting to see fireworks from four different areas while tilling. The July 5 and 6 planted beans and corn did fabulous and we were able to replenish some low seed varieties. However, there are just never enough hours in the days to get things all planted and cared for.
Our summer was somewhat disturbed by an individual who was determined to put our operation out of commission by posting lies and outrageous comments everywhere he could. He called first and then sent sometimes twice a day cleverly worded threats that left us wondering if we or our animals and crops were safe. I learned a lot about laws and discovered from the police they would not deal with him until he actually did physical damage to us or our property. In other words it seemed we had to wait until we were either hospitalized or dead and then something would be done. Threats to “end our operation “ or make 2 parts of the operation not usable meant nothing to the police. Finally he began to threaten us with requests for larger and larger sums of money or he would do more and more things. Again we were told we would have to wait and see if he actually did it. It was not fun living each day not knowing if we were safe or if our property would be destroyed. The police finally got him stop in late October after his demands grew to over 9 billion dollars. A ridiculous sum of money and I had to run off over 300 pages of threats and harassment to give to the police. A lot of valuable time that could have been put toward genetic preservation was spent filling out paperwork or trying to make sure none of the animals or crops were harmed. Lots of sleepless nights and wasted time. We were all glad when it ended though the lies are still found in many places.
Harvest was delayed by a very wet September and then the voles moved and took on the sweet potatoes. Our oldest dog Snickers passed away in June at the age of 15 and had been the champion vole getter and followed me everywhere in the garden and had a great nose for where the voles were. In his absence the voles partied quite well. He and his soon to be 15 year old companion Max were quite the team. Many a time the 2 of them who followed me everywhere doing chores and working saved me from raccoons, opossums and other creatures. One would always go ahead of me when I was doing chores after dark and one followed. When I had bronchitis so bad in 2012 I would lay on the ground to catch my breath from all of the coughing. Snickers would lick my face to try to get me up and Max would get behind me and try to push my head up and to get me to stand. There is something very special about the loyalty a devoted pet has. Snickers is missed very much and Max is rapidly showing his age. I know his days are numbered. Penny is learning from Max and will soon have to take over the big role of farm protector all by herself.
We again want to thank all of those who continue to support us and were are especially thankful for those who jumped in and counteracted the person trying to put us out of commission by telling the truth instead of his lies . We intend on plugging along saving as much as we can of our genetic resources as long as we are able. Here is hoping 2020 is a great year for all.
Glenn and Linda Drowns