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Topics - MikeM

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Livestock / New Sheep arrivals
« on: May 26, 2018, 08:24:12 PM »
We made a day trip down to Section Alabama to pick up some ewe lambs.  We are slowly switching to registered Katahdin stock and these 4 will replace 6 of our commercial ewes.  We will still be raising commercial quality sheep but they will be selling as meat sheep instead of breeders.

The farm these lambs came from cull really hard and truly only keep the ewes that are outstanding.  These girls are all about 2 1/2 months old and a little over 80 pounds so they have had phenomenal growth. They are all out of either twins or triplets but these girls won't be bred until they are a little over a year old to let them get to their adult size.

Fruit Trees / Celeste Fig Tree
« on: May 12, 2018, 06:01:48 PM »
I'm just starting to read up on Fig trees since I messed up last week at the produce auction and wound up bringing a Celeste Fig tree home.  I wasn't wanting a tree but when the auctioneer went from $30 down to $5 I bid just to get the bidding going the other direction.  It wound up the winning bid so now I have to figure out where to plant it.

Anyway, my reading is conflicted - I read that it is a compact tree and I read another article that said it gets enormous.  Clarification please on the actual size.  If it truly is a compact tree I can plant it not far from my other fruit trees.  I also have read that cold hardiness is iffy so am I wasting my time growing this thing in Zone 7?

Livestock / Signs of Spring
« on: March 26, 2018, 11:36:19 AM »
Some of our best graze is outside the fence so I try and use the electric netting rather than cut the grass.  I put in enough gates that I can pretty much access all available grass without much trouble.

Teresa is letting the chickens out to free range and they made a beeline to the garden beds.  Hopefully our latest freeze didn't get our fruit trees again and they are in full bloom right now.  We have 18 hens and are getting 16 or 17 eggs a day so they must think it's getting to really be spring also.

Livestock / Lambing Season 2018
« on: January 27, 2018, 07:54:05 PM »
I have been asked about our lambing and since I love talking about my girls here is an advance post.  The girls were in great shape when they went in with our ram and from the looks of them most are carrying multiple lambs. I'll update this when the lambs start arriving (which should be soon).

We took some pictures of the sheep while we were out feeding and taking a look at how everyone is doing. The ewes we put with the ram in October are due to lamb starting in 2 weeks. We have a couple that are showing signs of being ready NOW so they might have gotten bred through the fence.

The younger ewes were put in a month later and a few didn't cycle right away so they will be due to lamb mid February into March. They were all in really good condition going into breeding and several look to be carrying multiples.

First up is 34 who used to be known as Wild Thing and she is sold with her lamb(s). She will never be tame but she is a sweet one that doesn't panic when being handled.

Next is 70 who is smaller than I like but has perfect lines and dropped twins last season.

Then there is 122 who can be handled like a puppy dog but she is my girl and will probably stay here long enough to retire.

Next is Notag - she has soft ear tissue that doesn't like to keep ear tags in place and since she is another of my girls, she doesn't need a tag anyway.

Maisy is our Great Pyrenees but she is first my baby.  She must put on several miles following me around the paddocks when I'm working out there.

Thor (our Akbash pup) is taking his treasure off to hide somewhere so mean old daddy can't take it away. I had it sitting by the gate so I could throw it away and he grabbed it and hauled butt.  He is just over six months old and weighed 79 pounds this morning.

Happy Hour / Smoking on the grill and Chicken in the Flower Pot
« on: November 19, 2017, 10:10:16 AM »
Our Egg Delivery hen (E.D.) for short was doing her daily egg laying in the flower pot on our front porch and kept getting off the pot because I had set my smoker up close to the porch.  I turned the grill around and  finally convinced her I wasn't going to mess with her. She is in the upper left above the corner of the grill. The chickens are all pretty tame but Teresa is the one taking care of most of their needs.

We have company coming tomorrow and not being sure what they liked I'm doing some beef ribs, pork spare ribs and some lamb ribs.

Livestock / New sheep guardian puppy
« on: October 23, 2017, 07:23:19 PM »
I thought I had posted a recent picture of our Akbash puppy but can't find it.  Thor is 15 weeks old and just went over 37 pounds this morning. Our Pyrenees Maisy literally adopted him and started showing him the ropes after two weeks of keeping him away from the sheep.  She would leave him by our shop when she went out on patrol and would let him out with her at night since the sheep bed down until it starts to get light.  We were starting to worry that she was keeping him away from the sheep completely but then we noticed she would take him around once the sheep seemed to accept him and he started his growth spurt.  His sire is 140 pounds and judging by Thor's feet he will probably also be a big boy.  He is getting more obedience training than you normally do for a guardian but I don't have any desire to fight with a dog as big as I am. :)

Smart is an understatement and even at such a young age is acting like an adult around the sheep.

Livestock / Turkey on the canopy
« on: September 11, 2017, 12:31:43 PM »
I don't know if this should fall under the Livestock Forum or not.

Cheep Cheep the not so wild, wild turkey has been in our bigger chicken pen for the last week and seemed content to stay there since there are fewer chickens and they don't put any pressure on her.  That is until last night. I was taking the house dogs out this morning and heard something overhead on the pop up canopy.  I thought some might enjoy a an unusual picture.

We are hoping that she lives long enough to go back into the wild but she keeps flying into the paddock where our guard dogs live with the sheep and they are likely to have her for a snack if they can catch her.

Happy Hour / Another new pup
« on: September 10, 2017, 06:49:56 AM »
Yesterday was the fall meeting and sheep sale for the Tennessee Katahdin Sheep Association which we joined today. I'm not sure how but we volunteered to host the spring Association meeting at our farm in late April of next year. That meeting will not involve a sale but they say the attendance is always good with folks coming from of course Tennessee but there was several from Alabama, Kentucky, Alabama and Louisiana.  A couple of people are donating pork shoulders and briskets and we will provide lamb so I'll get a chance to do a mass feeding using my new Traeger grill.

We did not bring any new sheep home but this pretty white male Akbash pup followed us home. Most of the sheep that were for sale would have been a step backwards for us so we weren't tempted to buy any.  We started introductions this evening for the pup and our sheep guard dog Maisy when we got home and will continue today.  Maisy got riled up when the pup growled and snapped at her so we will see how that works out. This pup is going to be a big boy, his sire is right at 140 lbs and his dam is 110 lbs. The sheep were curious enough about him to come up and sniff and he was well behaved with them. By the time we got everybody settled in it was almost dark and after we settled in we heard this whining outside.  The pup escaped what we thought was a secure pen so he spent the night on the back porch and the other two herd dogs got to sleep in the house last night since we don't want them to interact.  We will build him a day pen in the sheep paddock this morning so he can spend the day outside without having to fend of the sheep and Maisy so everyone can get used to each other. He is 8 weeks old and almost 25 pounds but we still will keep him on the back porch at night.  It's a fine line keeping him from bonding with us instead of the sheep but he seems to be really smart and laid back.

Happy Hour / Chicks hatching
« on: September 01, 2017, 08:21:51 PM »
This was a pretty cool picture to share.  We have a neighbors grandson that often works for us and is awesome doing so.  Another neighbors dog got into his chicken pen and killed 10 of his chickens that he had raised from day old chicks from Tractor Supply.  We put a bunch of our eggs and  some that another neighbor donated in the incubator awhile back and they started hatching today.  So far 13 out of 30 and the attachment is of the first couple coming out.

Livestock / Working sheep for breeding
« on: August 29, 2017, 03:09:39 PM »
I hesitated to post anything about our normal activities with the disaster going on with our friends down south but decided it might be a good time because of that.

We are finally getting to the point where we can separate the 8 & 9 month old sheep from those that will get bred in the next few weeks.  They could have been weaned months ago but we had projects that needed to be done to make separate paddocks for the different groups.  We got Ringo (our ram) separated and him and the wethers are now residing in the dog training pen. The dog training has taken a back burner to everything else up to this point. We have the two main paddocks separated into 4 smaller paddocks using electric rope.  We feed the two youngest lambs first and the rest sense they aren't allowed until I either walk away or take them down to the handling chute.

I thought a few pictures might be enjoyable.

Happy Hour / Turkey and Aussie stare off
« on: August 25, 2017, 01:03:56 PM »

I thought some would like these pictures.  Teresa lets Cheep Cheep the wild turkey (who is not so wild) out of the coop to wander around the yard and then at night about roosting time she wants to go back in to roost for the night in the tree that is in there.  There are no turkey rescues here so our simple thought process is that if she is free to come and go and gets a hankering to go off into the woods, she can.  There are a lot of turkeys around us so we are hoping that some day she will get called off but if not she can stick around.

I wish I had my camera when I first saw her by the dogs in their kennel.  It almost looked like she was taunting them and got about an inch from the chain link and just stood there taunting them as they were having a fit.  By the time I got my camera and got back out there she had just nestled in for a staring match at the Aussie who was sitting there drooling.

I added a picture of her from when she was two weeks old and thought I was her mother.

Livestock / Sheep locked out of their normal siesta spot
« on: August 10, 2017, 04:58:52 PM »
My sheep have been bedding down at the end of my shop but the planned use of that space is for lambing stalls and sorting area outside of the main fence.  I was finally able to get to the project this week and finished it up this afternoon.  This part of the building is typical pole barn and was open span except for the two end posts.  Finding spots that was more dirt than rock worked out fortunately.  The holes all had to be dug with a rock bar and manual post hole digger since there was way too much rock there to use the auger.  I used Sheep and Goat Panels for the outside fence to make it sturdier than regular wire.  The sorting chute and tilt table are just  outside this pen.

After I got it all done the sheep stood there starting at what had been their bedding area trying to figure out how to get in.

Happy Hour / Snake got fried on electric fence charger
« on: July 09, 2017, 05:08:35 PM »
I was walking around this morning and I could hear the electricity clicking in the electric fence which you can't normally that clearly hear this far away from the charger since it is down at the shop 200' away.  We went around the fence looking for a short and saw that a snake had fried himself by getting wedged in between the hot wire and the ground connection on the charger.  This charger is big enough to charge a 75 mile fence so I doubt it took very long to get fried at 17K volts.

General Discussion / Birds Nest Fungus info
« on: June 06, 2017, 05:42:30 PM »
We harvested the last of our cabbage yesterday and found what we thought were eggs of some kind that we had never seen before.  We sent pictures to a friend in South Carolina who is a plant pathologist and he let us know it was a beneficial fungus called Birds Nest Fungus.

Below is some info about it and it turns out we have an abundance of these since we have so much compost and partially composted sheep manure in our beds.  You folks in the deep south probably won't have this fungi but I thought it was an interesting find.

What is Birdís Nest Fungus? Soil and organic debris are full of all kinds of marvelous natural composters. One of them, the birdís nest fungus, is also a master of mimicry. It has the appearance of a cup-shaped nest with little spheres inside that resemble eggs. In fact, the spheres are the method through which the organism reproduces itself. Whenever I see one of these little nests in my bark mulch, it makes me smile. They are magical little organisms with a unique reproductive strategy and wonderful composting abilities. Finding birdís nest fungus in mulch is a common sight, as the fungi lives off the organic substrate and turns it into rich soil. The cup shape is actually the fruiting body of the fungus and holds the lentil-shaped peridioles that contain the spores which are the basis of the saprophyteís reproduction. Birdís nest fungi in gardens are common in moist, cool locations primarily in fall. Their preferred locations are rich soil, animal feces, decaying wood and plant debris. Life Cycle and Benefits of Birdís Nest Fungi Birdís nest fungi in gardens catch rain or irrigation water in the little fruiting cups, which are about ľ inch in diameter. The splash of the water ejects the peridioles 3 to 4 feet, hopefully into hospitable terrain. They have a sticky membrane which catches onto a plant stalk, side of the house or whatever is nearby and adhere. Once the peridiole dries, it releases the spore. As a saphrophyte, birdís nest fungi break down organic waste matter into rich compost. They take nutrients from the material and cause decomposition to increase nearly two fold. This means cleanup of the garden is much quicker with fungi and other decomposers in the landscape. Birdís nest fungus in heavy bark mulch is especially helpful. They help reduce large chunks into easy to break down slivers that help enrich the soil and increase tilth.

Read more at Gardening Know How: Birdís Nest Fungus In Gardens: Tips For Getting Rid Of Birdís Nest Fungus

General Discussion / Tomato turning to the sun before planting
« on: June 06, 2017, 09:05:42 AM »
We first posted this topic several years ago on the old forum and since it is a tip that helped me over the years I thought I would post it again.

I like to plant tomatoes in a trench so the roots can develop along the stem.  Since this time of year we still have fairly cool temps at night the tomatoes seem to do well planted like this.  The problem with planting like that is that you can easily break the stem when you try to get it situated in the trench and turned upward.

The day before I'm going to plant tomatoes I turn them on their side and over they are turned up naturally and ready to plant the next day.  I know there are a few people on the forum that do this but there are a lot of new faces since the forum change over.

All of these plants are Russian type tomatoesThe first picture is around noon yesterday.  The second picture is after about 4 hours and the third is this morning ready to plant.

Happy Hour / Real Lawn Mowers
« on: June 01, 2017, 08:48:25 AM »
Not a very productive day today other than needing to mow part of our yard and the hill in front of the shop. I have been having an issue with a tooth that goes from uncomfortable to tears in the eyes pain. Teresa finally got tired of asking me when I was going to the dentist and just made me an appointment this morning to get it checked. The tooth was broke off from the roots so it got pulled and then they went hunting for the roots. It's still sore but is better feeling than it has been for months.

Anyway - we have all of this netting and it only takes about 10 minutes to set it up over the area that takes me the better part of an hour with the weed eater so it was a good trade off in time.

Excuse the construction zone look - we are in the process of having new siding installed but like everything else in Tennessee they will finish it when they 'getroundtoit'

Happy Hour / Smoked Pork Shoulder questions
« on: May 21, 2017, 11:50:30 AM »

I know we have quite a bit of expertise on the forum in the BBQ and smoked pork area and I have a couple of questions.  I can smoke meat with the best of them but my experience is with one or two pork butts at a time not the 35 I have been asked to over see.  The way things work at this church I am sure that my oversight would actually  be doing the cooking since people are notorious for volunteering for something and then not showing up.

The church is having a fund raiser and sold tickets for 35 pork butts that will be cooked on Friday and delivered on Saturday.

I have some issues with their "plan" and would like to see if I'm off base or not.  They want to cook them to the just done point between 180-190 degrees, pull them, wrap in foil, and put in insulated chests over night.  I have done this for a few hour period but never for 8 hours or more.  I suggested thy cook to 200 degrees so it's past the stall and bag them up and put in a cooler with ice to chill them.  That would require that the buyer would have to heat it up (whenever they want to eat it) but it would keep it from being over cooked.

Is their idea ok or is there an alternative.

Livestock / Here Sheep
« on: May 14, 2017, 08:06:51 PM »
We have gates on every corner of our six sided fence (This pen is in an L shape) and let the sheep out into a different paddock every 5 or 6 days.  They love the new salad bar and come running as soon as I call out "Here Sheep".  I need to do a video but these two pictures shows their action in getting there.   There was only about 10 seconds between the two pictures.   :)

General Discussion / Germinating/Testing viability of okra seed
« on: May 05, 2017, 02:56:19 PM »
This post won't have much affect on you folks still living in the deep south but I would do the same type of seed sprouting to gain some grow time even when we lived in Zone 9.

I wasn't sure where to post this or if anyone was even interested but we did a very unscientific experiment germinating some okra seeds. I had read several discussions on the web about testing for viability and the answers were all over the place.

In this case the seed I was germinating was some of our saved Clemson Spineless Okra seed from last season. I soak the hard seeds in water for an hour or so and quite a few of the seeds will float on the surface and a good number will sink. I never gave much thought about the quality of the seeds that floated vs seeds that sunk but I got curious.  We then placed a number of each in a damp paper towel and put them in a sandwich bag.

I put 20 seeds each of the floating and sinking seeds on May 1st. I put them in potting soil today in a flat since they had sprouts almost an inch long today.

The result of our little test = Of the 20 sinker seeds tested, 19 had sizeable sprouts and the 20th looked like it was ready to sprout.

Of the 20 floaters tested - 14 of the 20 seeds sprouted and the sprouts were considerably smaller (not sure if that matters in the long run).

We do this with all of our early seeds that need hot weather to germinate and gain as much as 3 weeks or more on the growing season. Like our okra, I would not even consider putting seed in the ground until the soil temp was at or above 70 degress but seeing as it's in the 40's, they would just sit there until it gets warmer and possibly may not germinate at all with this weather.

Livestock / Got our new herd sire - UPDATED with picture
« on: April 25, 2017, 07:30:35 PM »
We picked up our new herd sire today.  We bought him over a month ago but had to finish up another section of fence since we don't want any of the ewes bred until July for the 1st batch then November for the rest of them.

We have two of the 4 month old wethers in with him to keep him company and he settled right in.  I say settled in that he quit drooling after he got used to the scent of the female sheep on the other side of the fence.  He has been with cattle for the last 2 months and has not seen a female sheep for 4 months so needless to say he was all show off to the girls who seemed to be pleased with their new guy,

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