Make Hay while the Sun Shines

Hay fields grew thick and quietly over the Shenandoah Valley in my youth. Tractors and hay making equipment were busy working the fields, dropping hundreds of fresh-baled hay onto the ground and hauled to barns for the coming winter.

Fields full of tractors, wagons, balers, and the best part, young, tanned farm boys, were busy ‘making hay while the sun shined.” It was exciting watching those strong young men toss those heavy bales onto the wagons as if they were handling only a feather!

Baling hay is hot, hard, scratchy work. We baled it on the 1,300 acre farm we called home for many years. At that time most everyone grew their own supply.

But at they say, times have changed. At first it was the equipment that changed. I recall how ‘odd’ the big round balers looked when first they appeared. Boys were not so willing to work in the hay fields anymore, the big round bales covered that lack of manpower.

Slowly big farms got smaller and smaller, then sold. Thus was the fate of ours. The few big farms that remained supplied the need for hay.

I have purchased hay my entire adult life. So when my twinster and brother-in-law, Chipley and Kent Gordon, starting selling hay to supply local needs I understood that. What I did not understand is that they are called ‘hay brokers.’

What started out in 2015 as a small, honor-system, pick-it-up-yourself hay from their small barn has evolved into a busy, local hay supply business. A thriving family-owned and operated business.

Tractor trailer loads of hay are delivered to their new, big hay barn. Built in the Spring of 2019, this large barn holds up to seven semi-truck loads of hay, according to Chad Young, Hay Manager for Colorado Horse Hay, and also the owners son-in-law. Large orders are delivered by a compete staff of men driving their own trucks and trailers. Small orders are available for pick-up yourself.

Hay is kept orderly according to size and type. Chad knows his hay and his way around those huge stacks. Bales are much larger than ones I purchase here in the East. Bundles of Timothy is the most popular. Chad said in the summer they can go through four semi-loads a day!

Their hay is supplied as far away as Wyoming, and surrounding areas as well. He said they serve customers as far away as Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and even Florida! Check out their website: coloradohorsehay.com

Thank you for the tour Colorado Horse Hay folks. Keep up the good work!

A barn full of hay and trailers ready for delivery.
Chad Young—Hay Barn Manager
Chipley and Chad
Chad can get seven semi-loads of hay in the barn!
These are big bales of hay!
The hay is beautiful.
Loading up a customer order.
Good hay for hungry horses.
This little skiff of snow does not hurt the hay.

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

What Dogs Know about Horses

Watching our animals interact with one another is a life lesson in and of itself.

They communicate with each other, and they seem to understand. I have noticed they do need a bit of ‘training’ to learn each other’s language, but they learn quickly!

It has been a while since we have had a puppy here on the farm with us. We got our Pembroke Corgi puppy, HoneyPie, one-and-a-half years ago at eight weeks old. I kept a close eye on her for the first year. She needed to learn about horses and cats from a safe distance. It only takes one determined strike from a horses front leg to break a dogs back. And goodness, the damage a mature cat could give a silly, playful puppy! She also had to learn not to chase the chickens.

She is now nineteen months old. She knows her way around the farm, cats, horses and chickens. Though she takes great joy in giving the chickens a good, quick run! I am teaching her to herd them also.

Our one miniature horse, Clarette, has made it her mission to keep HoneyPie out of the paddock, and fields. The photos below show interesting ‘talk’ between horse and dog. It’s fascinating to watch! Can you ‘read’ their language?

Everyone aware of everyone here. No big deal.
Clarette is not bothered by HoneyPie here either–for now.
But see this ‘language’ here? Clarette has turned towards HoneyPie, who is not quiet sure about it all just yet.
Clarette has turned with more intention towards HoneyPie, who is now on the alert.
Now she means business, and HoneyPie is backing off from her advance.
Clarette now means business! The funny part is that she backs off as soon as she gets HoneyPie to skedaddle away! Then they do it all over again.

In reality Clarette is only bluffing. She just enjoys her power over HoneyPie! Such is life here at the farm.

Before the Rain Comes

Only a couple hours before the rain was to start and then to linger for the next couple days. By the looks of the sky, this weather forecast seemed accurate.

I had a weather dependent project to be done. Days have just begun warming up so the time was right, that is before the rain came into the picture. Projects that stay on ‘the list’ too long start screaming at me—“Looky, looky! I’m still here waiting to be done. How long is it going to take?” This particular project was mulch. It had been frozen all winter, and was just warmed enough now to get. The barn was in desperate need of a fresh layer of mulch all in front of the stalls where the horses live. It really is a never-ending project because it gets picked up with the daily barn mucking, and the chickens scratch it all over the place!

Over the past year our neighbor has had many trees removed from around his home and property. Much of it was turned to firewood but a heavy load was shredded into lovely, big mulch piles. He kindly told me I can take what I need. A generous offer he did not have to make twice. Corralling my daughter and son-in-law for some fast help before the rains came was easy. I knew our new SIL, Jon, had never driven a tractor and being the fine car/truck mechanic that he is with a passion for all things related to engines and four wheels, I knew this would be an easy sale. Not only that but he is very sharp and clever.

Using the loader to fill the club car and hauling a load with the tractor as well was a sure bet for getting this project done quickly. After a basic lesson on tractor driving skills and working the front-end loader, he was off and heading to the mulch piles. Just as I knew, he caught on very quickly, smiling all the way. Tractors have a way of putting a smile on one’s face. There is something magically fun about them (though I suppose if I were on them 10 hours a day I’d have a different opinion).

Anyway, it was a successful project. Rain was falling with purpose when we dumped our last load. Time to check it off that perpetual farm work list—for the time being.

As for Jon? I heard he quietly whispered to his young wife—“We need to get a tractor!”

Five Minute Friday Writing Prompt—Spring

Spring, Spring in the air!

Here in our part of Virginia frost date is in May. So it can still feel a bit like winter for awhile. However the cold is not as bitter, the ground is warming up, the daffodils are in bloom, and the chickens are out in the yard..

But the best part, the neighbor children are outside running over to visit chickens, horses, the dog and cats! Full of chatter, they happily feed the horses carrots as they visit. All talking at the same time!

Oh! The joys of Spring!

All in a Days’ Work

I grew up working in the hay fields at home on our 1,300 acre farm at Endless Caverns in New Market, Va. I always loved being out in the hay fields. The fresh cut hay always smelled so good, the rhythmic sound of the machines, and of course, hay can only be made ‘when the sun shines!’

That farm was sold many years ago. Though memories still linger, most especially in springtime here in the valley when hay making is in full swing. In this time of year barns are full of the fresh hay of this past season. A barn full of new hay is a sweet smell indeed. Folks have come into our little barn and remarked about how good it smells! We do not have enough land to make our own. It must be purchased.

Our barn is small, so we have to go often to restock our supply from our man in West Virginia. He has beautiful hay, and has been our supplier for many years. Our horses are in good care with the quality of his hay. I am a hay hog, or so I have been told. I do not feed our big horses grain, but I do feed them lots of good hay. On cold, blustery nights and days, hay is a far better feed for the horses. It keeps them warmer longer than grain. On bitter winter days, I have ‘hayed’ them three times during the day. There is such a thing as horses getting what we call a ‘hay belly’, but I have found that is mostly because of poor quality over quantity.

Most hay is now baled in big rounds. Ours come in square bales. We prefer it that way. It is more work on our part as we must tend to the animals morning and evening. However, there is not as much waste. Horses are picky eaters. Ours lick up their daily supply! I also like to shake it out on the ground for them to check for weeds, and, believe it or not, I have actually found a baled, dead field mouse in one bale. Yikes! It happens occasionally.

Time is nearing for another hay run!

HoneyPie eating sunflower seeds chickens left behind!
Eating time!
Time for a drink.

Our Meadow

Out here on our little farm, we have worked to keep the fields bush-hogged throughout the summers. This year, however, we managed them a bit differently. We decided to mow paths around the edges of the fields inside the fence rows. It created pretty paths for walking around the property. Everything likes to walk on paths, i.e. horses, dogs, cats and folks! Out in the field it provided great cover for birds to raise their young. We have watched more beautiful meadowlarks than ever before. They like cover, and build their nests in long grasses on the ground. While out walking one late afternoon after feeding, HoneyPie flushed up a turkey hen and her bunch of tiny chicks. They scurried to hide in the woods, and mother gathered them up quickly after we passed by. Another benefit is the Timothy grass. It was able to go to seed, which will help the pasture next season.

Winding, connecting smaller trails were tied into the ones on the outer edge providing an variety of paths and ways to walk through the fields. One can actually see the effects of the wind as it wafts over the tall grasses and wildflowers–very dreamy. There are pretty wildflowers growing all over, though I know not all are beneficial.

I was a bit concerned about snakes, but have yet to see any. Probably the horses and dogs keep them at bay.

Now that the good grasses have gone to seed, it is a smart idea to start mowing again so as to keep the late summer weeds from going to seed. Those we do not want to reproduce.

Another bonus is we saved fuel and manpower. It takes a good many hours to mow the fields. Summer has passed too quickly for it is past time to mow, and there is one more field that needs attention. Perhaps this afternoon!

Meadowlarks
Timothy grass
Fledgling meadowlarks.
HoneyPie loves the long grass!

Pretty meadow wildflowers

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.

Fast Blog!

This has to be a fast blog! It has been a while since I have written a blog and I do have good reason. Her name is HoneyPie! Our new puppy! I spend every one of her waking hours with her, and have to do many chores while she naps. It has been happily busy around here over the past five weeks we have had her.

She is a Tri-colored Pembroke Corgi with her tail! We ordered her tail before she was born. Our breeder said we were the first folks to ever request the tail from him. He was so happy, he would send photos saying, “Look at that cute little tail!” He also told us Corgis cannot be shown anymore in Great Britain unless they have their tails. Docking them is not allowed anymore there either. It is considered cruel and unusual punishment. We are not there yet here in our country, but I have noticed many more folks wanting their Corgis to have tails.

So please allow me to introduce to you our HoneyPie:

HoneyPie, 8 weeks old.
Being a puppy is such hard work!
Our future chicken herding dog.
Time to catch a nap!
See that cute little tail?
Life is busy and happy with her!
She also loves getting wet. She needs a larger pool!
Running in tall grass? Oh boy!!
But it does not beat the pond…
Such a happy face after a swim in the pond.
Good, smart puppy—Come!

In Focus #8—Birds in the Hood

Catching photos of birds has always been a joy and pain at the same time. It seems my camera is always not on me when I see a great photo. Forget about running into the house to fetch it!

Bird watching has been a wonderful pastime for years, learned from my dear Aunt from many a walks in the woods. I started keeping a ‘life list’ of the species in my 30’s. I only have about 130 species checked off so far. The last, very exciting species I saw (and have only once) was the Bobolink!

Our feeder is filled daily with sunflower seeds. The bird bath is next to the feeder. Watching a bird take a bath will make one laugh! One day I’ll catch a photo of it. BTW, sunflower seeds attract Goldfinches as well (some folks insist thistle seed is the only feed to attract goldfinches). Truly, life is not the same without the beautiful, cheerful Goldfinch in it.

Another fun discovery for us with sunflower seed is how easily they grow all around the house and garden! We have beautiful sunflowers from the seeds the birds drop all around the house. We leave them on the stem and enjoy watching the birds, especially the Goldfinches, eat on them all through the fall and winter. Bonus! If your zinnias are left to dry out in your garden, you will see the birds eating them as well, plus they will re-seed themselves next spring. Double bonus!

There are many other birds around here on the farm than posted on this blog. These are the few that just happened to turn out rather nicely. Thought it would brighten the day to share a few of these lovely, happy neighbors that are all around us.

Thank God for birds. A friend of mine recently told me where she read “of another service rendered as the birds sing their praises in the morning…that somehow the vibrations of their voices actually affect and aid in the awakening of God’s creation for the day.”

Isn’t that a beautiful thought?