How Can You do That?

“How can you do that?” I am frequently asked this question when people hear our chickens are free-range.

“It does pose a risk,” I concede, “but the benefits outweigh the risks.”

How can that be? How can free-range chickens ever survive? There are several factors that work in their favor out here at our place. We have dogs that keep wildlife at bay. We also walk all over the farm, thus leaving our human scent as well. The horses play a big part too in keeping critters away. Though they can injure and even kill chickens as I wrote in a previous post, Faster than You Think—Ask the Chickens. It does not happen often. A healthy horse will defend his domain if feel threatened, or a ‘stranger’ shows up on their turf.

Free-range chickens are a benefit to everyone. They eat bugs which makes us all happy. I leave horse manure several days in the paddock to ‘cure’ a bit. Chickens peck through it eating the worms, thereby breaking the parasite cycle for the horses. Bonus! They also are my first composers. Manure has been beautifully broken down by their work.

Their hen house is in a stall in the barn. This also offers extra protection for them, and a plus for us as eggs are laid either in their house or feed buckets. Rarely is there need to have a daily egg hunt.

While this works here, it may not work at your place. Which does not really matter. I have seen beautiful hen houses and enclosures to keep them safe, all full of a bunch of happy hens!

So please do not feel bad if your chickens cannot be free-range. I am just answering the question of how it works for us.

No matter how chickens are kept, would you agree that they are fun and #chickensmakeuschuckle ?

Happy chicken farming!

Our dogs help protect the farm.
Horses help protect chickens.
They eat worms in the manure that helps break parasite cycle for horses.
They are our first composters!
They eat bugs!
No matter where you keep your chickens, they are fun! #chickensmakeuschuckle

Five-Minute-Friday Word Prompt—Heal

“Jehovah Rapha,” is the cry of my heart this sad week. We cry out to God, and He hears us. Oh Lord, heal our land, heal our people.

We are living in an upside-down world of no sense. Wrong is called right and right called wrong. Yet, we all can agree the mass murders that took place this week are wrong and devastating. If only Your people would hear Your voice, You would heal our land. Repentance belongs to us, we must repent of our sins for God to hear us. Dear God, hear those that cry out to You. Comfort our hearts, those families. Spread Your loving wings over our hurting hearts. We need You! This is my prayer this week. To God be the Glory!

Thursday Thoughts #1

It seems like a fun thing to start on this blog, that is, to cause reflective thoughts through photography. There is much truth in the old saying, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’.

So every Thursday I hope to post a photo of mine with the thoughts that came to mind upon looking at it. With the goal of stirring a thoughtful moment in our often crowded, busy day, a daily, small time of reflection is a wonderful thing. I hope you agree, and perhaps post your thoughts as well. If you would like to share with others your own photo and thoughts, please post your address in your comment.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

A Promise Kept

That is today? I thought to myself while passing by the Shenandoah County Fair Grounds on my way to Harrisonburg, VA. How did I ever loose track of that? I promised my grandson, William, we would go see them when they came this summer! Now what was I going to do?

I had plans for the day, and it sure did not include this activity I had promised to William. Pulling off to the side of the highway, I checked out the Fair website. Sure enough, the races were today, starting at noon. I knew then I had been given this reminder, graciously by God. I must not let my grandson down. We had read together, with great joy and interest Born To Trot, by Marguerite Henry. I knew the Shenandoah County Fair had harness racing during the fair week. So earlier this year I promised William he and I would go see them. Such exciting anticipation for both of us!

My plans for the day must be re-arranged. Quickly I changed the entire plan for the day, and made a hopeful, last-minute call to my son.

“Is it possible I could pick up William and Evan (his older brother, if he’d like to come) to go to the fair to see the harness races?” I asked. Last minute is not the best time to make plans with a busy young family, but I was hoping, and praying it would work for them. He said he would call me back. Great. By then I was in Harrisonburg. I finished up in a hurry the errands I was on, counting the minutes.

The return call from Austin was a happy “Yes!”

It was a ‘day made to order’, as an old neighbor used to say to me many years ago. We arrived at the fair grounds in good time to find a seat down near the track. Being that close to those trotting horses was thrilling! William even picked the winner! In between races we found the Ruritan building for a yummy hamburger and ff’s, and ate lunch while watching more racing.

I have not ever seen harness racing in person. It is truly thrilling. Those horses are trotting the air! It seems as if they float over the track!

We ended this most grand afternoon in the only way one should when at a fair—Ice Cream Cones!

I am so grateful The Lord gave us this grand day. For left to me, it would have been missed.

And, by-the-way, Austin told me after we got home that, “William had been waiting and was sure excited to see the races.” By God’s good grace this promise was kept. How wonderful!

None of the horses hooves are on the ground!

Five Minute Friday Writing Prompt–Order

“A place for everything and everything in it’s place.”

Rosie, the robot, always said that on the cartoon The Jetsons, as she would methodically go around the house putting everything in order.

It makes me laugh when I say it too as I clean my house. But order makes me happy and keeps me sane. Though I do not consider myself a ‘clean freak’, things must be kept in order.

It is amazing to me how well our animals here on the farm even respond to the order of the day. They know how the day is to begin and end, and are quick to remind me if I am late.

It seems our good God of order has placed that sense in all of His Creation as well. Glory!!

There is order even in flowers.

Five-Minute Friday prompt—Summer

I grew up working in the tourist industry. Endless Caverns in New Market, VA was my childhood home and our family business.

Summer was the busiest time of year, full of traveling folks from all across America. We had campgrounds, a livery, a 5.5 acre lake for campers and local folks, walking nature trails all over our 1,300 acre farm, and of course the caverns. I took my first tour, as a tour guide, through the caverns at 16 years old.

Summer, to this day, is a special season for me. I always hate to see it go, even though I throughly enjoy all the seasons here in Virginia. We never vacationed—we were the vacation! We met many wonderful people from all parts of America. From sea to shining sea!

I wonder just how many tours I took over all those summers!

Molly

I am interested in trying out a slideshow feature on this blog for fun, and decided to use Molly as my experiment.

Molly belongs to our second son and his family. We kept her last week while they vacationed at the beach.

She is a sixteen-year-old Maltise. She has never stayed with us before, so it took her a couple days to feel comfortable. Age can be a wonderful thing. She had little concern for our dog, or two cats, which was a relief. She has a little trouble seeing well, and a bit more trouble hearing. It sure did not stop her from being all around the farm. Those little, old legs carried her around in a hurry. One second she was in sight, next second we had to go in search of her.

Good thing she is snow white, made it far easier to find her. We enjoyed her company for the week, and hope you enjoy these photos of her.

Hmmm…do not think slideshow turned out?

Thank You, Darlin’ Dot

Shirley has a lot to thank her darlin’ Dot for.

Dot is the professional photographer in the family at large. Shirley wrote about her earlier this year: https://bluerockhorses.com/2020/01/03/dot/ Shirley and Snoot are real proud of this talented, first Daughter-in-love of theirs.

Once again she has opened the window of photography a good bit wider for Shirley, an amateur photographer. While taking in the outdoor view on a recent visit to the farm, Dot mentioned the wonderful photos that could be captured. Then she asked Shirley the killer question—“Where is your camera?” She answered her own question, “I know, it is put away neat and tidy in your case.” How did she know that, Shirley wondered?

Opening the pantry door, Dot pointed to an empty spot on the shelf. “This is where I would keep it all the time. A camera in it’s case is seldom used.”

Before being too hard on Shirley, dear reader, it is helpful to know she is ‘a-place-for-everything-and-everything-in-its-place’ sort of gal. Neat and tidy. Sometimes to a fault.

Well, later that very day, Shirley proudly showed Dot the ‘new home’ for her camera. The exact spot Dot had pointed out to her. One more little tip our amateur photographer learned from her professional Dot—-keep the lens cap off!

Shirley says it reminds her of a verse from Scripture: Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; But much increase comes by the strength of an ox. Proverbs 14:4

Shirley would like to share some of the wonderful moments in time caught because of having her camera closer to hand:

Shirley thanks her darlin’ Dot for opening her photographic mind and window a little bit more.

Who is going to Feed the Pigs?

Our discussion revolved around pigs. A family member that is vegetarian expressed an interest in ‘saving’ all animals from slaughter. It sounds very noble to not want to kill farm animals for food. It is a hard, dirty business to be sure. The problem is it is not practical.

Twice a day, everyday of the year regardless of weather or personal inclination, livestock needs tending to. These are the realities of having animals be them house pets or farm animals.

But consider these ideas. Our society is transient. How many of us live in the same home our parents lived in, or even the one we grew up in ourselves? How many hours are you away from home everyday? How often do you travel? How long are you gone when you do travel? Do you have a summer home separate from your winter home? How about a summer cabin? Summer vacation?

So, who is going to feed the pigs? Day after day, year after year for all their long lives? And that is just pigs.

Yes, it is hard sending our cattle off to slaughter. I was thanked by a man recently for raising cattle for beef. He said that because he recognizes the fact that if cattle are not used for beef, they would be extinct! Because—who is going to feed the ‘pigs’?

Calming the Grass-Fed Steers?

The steers have gone to a cool place.  Any reader  familiar with this blog knows what that means.  It is the hardest day for this PFO.  There is little hope this day will ever get easy.  They have been processed and delivered to the buyers.  Buyers who have an interest in the quality of food they eat.  They know the farmer.  They know the farm.

 

“Are they grass-fed only?”  The most asked question heard from interested buyers.  “No, they are not.”

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Are they grass-fed only?

What many folks do not realize is that cattle have a natural fear of man.  Unlike dogs, cats, and other household pets, cattle have to be taught to feel comfortable around humans.  The way this works for us is with feed.  As I heard a cattleman say once, “Feed keeps the cattle humble.”

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Cattle have to learn to feel comfortable around humans.

What does that mean?  Here it means getting close to the cattle.  This is of utmost importance to this PFO.  They are visually checked daily for injuries, pests, and vital signs.  Is their breathing normal, eyes bright, coat healthy looking and coming on nicely for cold weather?  Do they have a good appetite?  Are they interested in their surroundings?

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Feed allows us to get close to them.

When they are trained to come to the feed call and beating of the feed bucket, they are willing to hang around we humans.  If these steers were totally grass fed, I suppose we would need re-training on how to properly care for them.  Until our steers are comfortable with us, they spend all their time in the woods and graze at the farthest points in the pasture.  They bolt away should we get too close.

 

After learning to come in when called for feeding time there is a peacefulness to the day here with all the animals.  They will hang around with the horses and chickens and feel far more at ease.  This is the goal for us.  Is there a more bucolic scene than cattle resting in grass chewing their cud?  Well, do not answer that.  Suppose we are cattle folks at heart!

Training does not take too long.  A couple weeks going out into the field to bring them in quickly gives way to them coming when they hear our voices calling.

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Our steers get plenty of fresh air and all the grass they can eat.

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It does not take them long to learn the sound of the feed bucket.

 

Our goal here at the farm with our hand-raised steers is to give them plenty of fresh air, a place to run, and all the green grass they can eat, along with a little feed to keep them near us for the best of the best care for them.  Right now, as I write this, the steers are out lying in the wet, wet grass peacefully chewing their cud…

 

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Feed allows us to give the steers the best of best care.

 

 

Know the farmer.   Know the farm.

Homemade is best.