Adopt a Pet Spotlight

This week’s Adopt a Pet Spotlight features a pot bellied pig named Maxwell! He is called a barrow. This means he has been neutered/castrated. This little guy is young, lovable, and willing to learn!

Maxwell

Here’s what the staff at Longmeadow Rescue Ranch have to say about Maxwell:

“Maxwell is a very sweet and talkative piggie. He loves any and all affection, and loves to tell his handlers when he needs more attention! He is extremely intelligent and wants nothing more than to please his adopter. He already knows how to sit on command and could easily be taught many more tricks! Maxwell does not know how to walk on a harness, but he would learn very quickly!
Before being surrendered to us, Maxwell lived in a home and had access to a fenced in yard. According to his previous owners he is mostly potty trained to going outside or using potty pads! He also lived with a large dog and they got along very well!”

If you are interested in Maxwell please take a look at his adoption information on Longmeadow’s website. Be sure to look at adoption requirements as well for Maxwell or any other animal you may be interested in that resides at Longmeadow!

Adoption Fees are waved for pigs at Longmeadow Rescue Ranch for the month of March! So get while the getting is good and go check out their sweet piggies!!

Until next time…

The Ag Wife

The Chicks Are Here!

Our chicks hatched on February 22nd as scheduled and were in the mail system that very afternoon! Newborn chicks are able to be shipped in the mail with a fair amount of ease. This is because when they hatch they come with a reserve tank of nutrients that will keep them healthy without feed for up to three days!

As everyone whose cracked an egged knows, there is the egg yolk and the egg white. The yellow egg yolk is absorbed into the chicks body cavity as it grows in the egg. When it hatches. The chick absorbs the rest of the yolk for proper nutrition! Pretty cool right? Of course this neat little physiology tidbit did not keep me from stressing about them until their arrival two days later.

When I picked them up at the post office they were chirping and ready to get out of there box. The box felt nice and toasty so I think the post office had some sort of warm place for the box to wait until I got there. When I got them home and had a look inside, I noticed they were all active, healthy, and dry. The hatchery expertly packed them with soft bedding and a special moisture absorbing pack of some sort. I made a short video that shows the package material at the initial unboxing of the chicks.

After they were unboxed and inspected, I took each chick out and dipped their beak in the water trough. This is an important step because they need to get hydrated as quickly as possible after being shipped. I also made sure that the water was about 98-100 degrees for the first two days they were home so when they drank, they would not lose body temperature.

While we were taking our initial count we noticed that we were sent three extra Rhode Island Red chicks. Now we have 12 Rhode Island Reds, 5 Plymouth White Rocks, and 1 Black Australorp for a grand total of 18 birds! We only wanted one male Australorp, but who knows what these extra chicks will turn out to be!

The overall health of the chicks has been fair to good. I have noticed the occasional wet stool and vent caking, so to help with this I added an extra water trough that contains special electrolytes along with their regular water. I also periodically remove any stuck fecal matter from their vents by soaking with warm water and gently rubbing with a warm wet cloth. If they continue to have issues I will add a probiotic to their water to ensure proper gut health.

As for the initial reaction from our daughter, she is ecstatic to say the least. She’s learned to call to the chicks and has since woken us up every morning calling, “chick, chick, chick, chick!” We hope she stays this excited as they grow and is able to learn about animals and where our food comes from!

Until next time…

The Ag Wife

Adopt a Pet Spotlight

Our first Adopt a Pet Spotlight subject is a chunky, cuddly pot bellied pig named Chumley! He has resided at Longmeadow Rescue Ranch since 2018 due to no fault of his own. The rescue staff have written an adorable bio about him I will post below.

“Chumley was purchased from a breeder as a piglet when he was just 2 months old. He was neutered as a piglet and lived in the same home until he was surrendered to Longmeadow. Chumley is a friendly and loving pig. He is very smart and eagerly waiting for someone to teach him some tricks. He doesn’t know how to walk on a harness but could quickly be taught. Of course, he is very food motivated. He also flops over for belly rubs. He came from a home with small and large dogs and got along with everyone. (although pigs should never be left alone with dogs)
Chumley’s previous owners told us that he is house trained and will ask to go outside. He is also crate trained. He also will allow you to trim his nails in exchange for belly rubs!
If you are looking for an indoor pig that would make an easy transition, Chumley is your guy! He has quickly become a staff favorite. He always greets visitors with a piggy smile.
Adoption fee 75
Before coming to adopt a mini pig please check the laws in your town and HOA to make sure they are allowed.
Adoptable animals can be seen by appointment only!”

If you are interested in more information about Chumley, feel free to get ahold of Longmeadow Rescue Ranch at (636) 583-8759
Ask for information about animal ID number A655951.

If you are interested in viewing other adoptable animals or want to look up adoption home requirements, visit Longmeadow’s website!

Until next time…

The Ag Wife

Exciting News!

Today’s post is going to stray slightly from our normal family farm updates to announce that we will be hosting a new weekly feature! Every week, I will be posting an article about pet adoption! Pet adoption is a wonderful and responsible way to bring home a new member of the family. There is one facility in particular I will be posting adoption information about that is located in Union, Missouri. Stay tuned for our Adopt a Pet Spotlight!

Tucked away between the hills and valleys in a small town in Missouri, there is a place that for the past 30 years has been a sanctuary to misplaced and mistreated animals of all shapes and sizes. Longmeadow Rescue Ranch was purchased in 1988 and has long since played a pivotal role in animal rescue and adoption. When browsing their website, one can view anything from chickens, to pigs, to horses that are in need of loving home. This organization proves that adoption isn’t just for cats and dogs, but all manner of creatures for a willing adopter.

Longmeadow goes above and beyond by matching adoptable pets with the perfect family. They even go as far as providing an entire equine training program and facility complete with expert trainers and staff to ensure horses and owners that partake in training are fully prepared for their new life together.

I cannot wait to go on this ride of awareness with Longmeadow Rescue Ranch and all of my dear readers! Get ready for a weekly dose of undeniable cuteness!

Until next time…

The Ag Wife

Chick Brooder

It is getting closer to when we will be receiving chicks to start a new flock here on our little farm! We are getting chicks by mail this round, which I have never done before. Because of this I have made some changes to my original chick starting plan. Instead of putting them immediately into the brooder in our coop, I’ve decided to make one out of an old water tank we had lying around and put it in our laundry room. They will need extra care after being shipped by mail and on top of that, we have been seeing extremely cold temperatures here in the Midwest, so the further from the weather the better they will thrive(hopefully). You can click here to see a short video about how I set the inside brooder up!

I have cardboard placed underneath the waterer and feeder so that shavings don’t get in the troughs and inhibit intake. I also placed them on the other side of the tank further away from the heat lamp. I did this to keep them from loitering around the feed and water. This will hopefully allow for easier access to trough space as well as clean and dry chicks.

I also have a red heat lamp that I will be conducting tests on soon to make sure it will be the ideal temperature for a warming space. Red heat lamps are recommended if you want to avoid interfering in the chicks natural light/dark patterns. Light plays a huge role in a chicken’s reproductive process. I talk about this a little in my other article Chick Days.

The only real issue I have with the set up is that it is a little small in terms of floor space. The recommended floor space per chick is about 6 inches. I have not done exact measurements of the trough but I am pretty sure it’s not going to allow that much space for 15 chicks. So, my plan for now is to keep them in this small makeshift brooder just long enough for them to bounce back from their travels and then move the to a more permanent brooding space in the coop.

The other thing I have done in preparation for these chicks is purchasing a bag of feed. This may seems like an easy task but there are some things you need to think about before just grabbing a bag of chicken feed. You need to make sure it is chick starter feed. You also have to decide if you want to get organic, medicated, or not medicated starter ration. I decided to start them off with a medicated bag that contains an antibiotic called Amprolium. I am usually not a huge fan of medicated feed but I will be using this to ensure my chicks bounce back quickly when they arrive at the farm. Once they do, it will not be necessary for medicated feed to be used unless they get sick. This of course is my personal decision for my flock. It does NOT mean it is the only and correct way to start birds. It’s really up to whoever is growing them.

This is the tag from my start ration bag.

The hatch date for our chicks is scheduled for February 22nd and arrival will be 1-3 days from hatch. We are ready to go and super excited to receive them!

Until next time…

The Ag Wife

It Takes a Village

Part of the reason why we moved back home is so our daughter could have more time with her relatives. But one thing we didn’t anticipate is how much we would need our friends and family to help us with our bundle of joy. From something as big as my mother letting us move back to the farm so that I could stay home and raise our family, our family coming together and hand delivering hay for our horses, to small acts of kindness and love from other members that we receive every day, our “village” is one to be admired.

My husband is gone half the year working hard to provide for our family. While he is at work it is usually just me and the baby left to hold down the fort. Recently in Missouri it has been bitterly cold, so of course the outside chores double! Feeding animals, blanketing horses, chopping and picking ice is all part of the deal when you have a farm in the winter time. However, this is the first winter I’ve had to do it alone with a toddler on my hip. Needless to say it has been a challenge. Wrestling us both into snow suits is half the struggle, and the other half is racing to get the chores done before the little one gets too cold. I considered waiting to do chores until crib time but since she doesn’t nap well and she doesn’t go to bed until well after dark, it meant I would be flailing around in pitch black to get it all done. So, usually she just comes with me.

It’s very hard for me to ask for help from people, but when one chore morning ended up with a bump on the head and very sad and very chilly toddler I realized I didn’t have a choice but to reach out. I had yet to get what I needed finished and my daughter was quite obviously done for the day.

My neighbor down the road ended up coming out to save the us. And not only did she help with the chores, but she came back the next day with ideas and equipment to make our life easier as we did farm checks. She didn’t like the idea of my daughter being exposed to below freezing temps on her watch!

When people say, “It takes a village. ” it’s not an exaggeration. Having a child has made me realize the importance of our close friends and family. Receiving kindness and generosity from our loved ones has been the greatest gift and the truest honor, and we as a family will be working hard to pass it forward.

Until next time…

The Ag Wife

A Composted Valentine

For those of you that received flowers this year for Valentine’s Day, what were your plans for them after they lived out their lives in a vase? Most dead flowers end up in the garbage along with many other organic waste items from our kitchen such as fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, etc. But did you know that they don’t properly decompose in the landfill? It takes much longer for organic waste to decompose in a landfill, and as it does it gives off gasses that contribute to global warming due do an improper decay cycle.

So what is to be done with all this waste? Why composting it of course! Composting can be done in almost any home environment big or small. And if you garden or raise plants, the advantages the compost gives to soil are exponential! There are so many ways to compost that you can customize it to your own lifestyle.

After some of research, I started my own composting journey last fall. I chose to use a tumbler composter. I keep a compost bucket on my back porch for kitchen scraps, and then take those scraps out to the composter once the bucket is full which ends up being once a day or so. Once I dump the scraps in the bin all I have to do is close it up and turn it to aerate the mixture. I like this tumbler because I can turn it with one hand and hold my daughter in the other. But if you do decide to compost make sure to research all your options, and yes there are even options for people that don’t have a backyard.

Yes, you can also compost your Halloween pumpkins! Hindsight from composting ours is that I should have chopped them into smaller pieces as it made the tumbler kind of hard to turn. It also took quite awhile for them to decompose.

With my composting journey being under way for about 6 months, I have learned a few things by trial and error. First, if you are a beginner and want to try the same system I am doing, I would recommend buying a bag of composting bacteria. It’s really helpful in maintaining proper decomposition and pH. Also, don’t put onions, garlic, or citrus fruits on your compost. Some people do it successfully with those items but I try not to tempt fate. You also never want to compost any sort of meat or cheese. Those items introduce harmful bacteria that will make you sick if you end up using the compost for gardening. The only other thing that you have to watch out of your moisture balance. It needs to be moist but not soaking. It’s pretty easy to achieve with a little water or some extra browns. Browns are dry things like yard leaves, clippings, cardboard, shavings. With this system, I hope to have some good quality compost for my garden this year!

Do you compost or have you ever thought about trying to? What composting method do you or would you like to attempt? I’d love to hear about your composting journeys!

Until next time…

The Ag Wife

Our First Family RV Trip

Right around Christmas last year we went on our very first RV road trip in our new(used) ride! Our destination was my stepfather’s cattle farm down in southern Missouri.

We had our share of first time RV owner adventures including an electrical mishap, pipe fitting issues, and even a bump on the noggin that had us racing to the ER with our daughter! Everything and everyone turned out just fine and healthy in the end. Should it even be considered an RV trip without a fair share of craziness? Between all the catastrophes we did end up having some extra time to enjoy ourselves. Our daughter even saw her first snow flurries of the season on this trip!

My daughter taking a snooze in her captain’s chair.
We made a gingerbread house!
First cooked meal in the RV.
We checked cattle with grandad and got super sleepy! Farming is hard work!
Daddy made a fire!
And made us some s’mores. They were delicious!

Overall we had a great time and we are so excited to get back out on the road for our next adventure!

Until next time…

The Ag Wife

Chick Days!

Starting around this time of year, many backyard farmers start making their plans for spring. This backyard farmer is starting her own flock of chickens! I ordered 9 Rhode Island Red pullets, 5 White Plymouth Rock pullets, and 1 Black Australorp cockerel for a total of 15 chicks.

We’ve have great history with egg production in Rhode Island Red hens so I knew for sure I wanted the majority of my flock to be that breed. But since I decided to order from a hatchery this year I browsed and found a couple other breeds I was interested in trying out. White Plymouth Rocks are medium to large bodied and are generally chosen for laying, but they also make good meat birds. I am fairly familiar with Barred Rock hens and I think the White Rocks are a relation, so I ordered a few just to see how they would compare to my much loved Reds.

Now what about the Black Australorp? I am not usually a fan of having a rooster around because I think that sometimes they stress the hens. However, I also had considered a couple factors in building this flock… A rooster should help in protecting the hens a bit. The last time there were chickens in this property some of them were picked off by coyotes. So hopefully at the very least the guy could be a sentry. The other factor being, that if I did in fact decide to brood my own chicks, this breed is also supposedly known for its egg laying abilities. Maybe I would even get better producing birds if I cross bred. If I do decide to try brooding a clutch or two I am sure there will be a post involving experiments with possible hybrid vigor and different phenotypic and genotypic outcomes. But, that won’t be for awhile.

While I have been explaining this exciting and somewhat nerdy news to my friends and family, I’ve been getting a lot of general questions about chickens and how their physiological processes work. So I thought I would answer some of these questions while I was on the subject!

Chickens are monogastric animals. This means they have one acidic stomach. They require higher quality feed sources as apposed to ruminant or cervid animals such as cattle or rabbits. Common ingredients in a bag of chicken feed will be corn for energy, soybeans for protein, and vitamin and minerals additives. Calcium is an especially important additive for laying hens as that is the main component of egg shells. Many times ingredients like dicalcium phosphate or limestone will be added to laying hen formula for this reason. Another interesting tidbit about the digestive system of a chicken is that they have no teeth. Instead they have a tough muscle in their throat called a gizzard. They swallow and store small pebbles in this muscle to aid in grinding the food they swallow into particulates.

A modern day, laying hen can lay upwards of 300 eggs in a year. They will lay an egg every day in what is called a sequence until they have a clutch. If the eggs are removed from the nest as they lay, they will continue to do so for an indeterminate amount of time. Sometimes they will have a pause day in laying in between sequences. This does not mean they are going to lessen or cease in egg production. It is merely a part of their natural ovulation cycle.

Egg laying is determinate on day/night or light/dark cycles and many things within a hens females reproductive process can be predicted and even controlled with this in mind. Many times as the days begin to grow shorter in the fall, molt is triggered. This is a period of feather loss and regrowth. It can also cause laying for some hens to stop as their body preserves nutrients to grow new feathers. Some molts last 3-4 weeks and others can last a couple months. Breed selection and nutrition are big contributing factors to how long a molt lasts.

Some other questions I’ve been asked…

  • What determines egg shell color?
    • From my knowledge, egg shell color is determined by the breed of chicken.
  • What determines egg size?
    • Egg size is in large part due to the age of the hen. The older a hen gets the large her eggs tend to get.
  • What determines egg yolk color?
    • Egg yolk color depends on what the chicken eats. Usually backyard farm and free range hens will have a dark yellow yolk due to having access to a variety of forage and insects. Some farms add things Marigold to feed rations in order achieve a golden colored yolk. There is not a nutritional difference in eating a light colored egg yolk verses a dark colored egg yolk.
  • Do you need a rooster for the hens to lay eggs?
    • No. Hens will ovulate and lay eggs in the same way they would with or without a rooster.
  • Do you need a rooster to have chicks?
    • Yes. You need a rooster to have chicks in the same way a woman needs the presence of a man in order to have a baby.

So, what other questions do you readers have about chickens? I would love to hear what you have to say about your own flocks!

Until next time…

The Ag Wife

Memaw Edwards

We have all met or known somebody in our lifetime that we’ve considered to be “one of the greats”. I am lucky enough to be related to one. My great grandmother Louise Edwards whom we lovingly called Memaw.

Born in Arkansas to the Lovell family, Memaw grew to be a woman short in stature with a big personality, and with an even bigger heart. She was a wife to her husband Charles, as well as teacher and a mother to her 4 children and countless students. She was our family’s steadfast matriarch for many fulfilling years.

When she passed away I was in the middle of a busy semester at college. My now husband and I dropped everything to be present for her service and burial. She had left a few precious things behind that I had the privilege to inherit. One of these things was the front of a quilt that she had made before she lost her eyesight. I had the intention of finishing it and had started to do so, but the amount of space it takes to properly work on a quilt was not conducive to my small college living space at the time. So the quilt finishing fell by the wayside.

Some years and a proposal later, I found myself back in Arkansas busy with wedding preparations. My family had surprised me with a bridal shower, and there it was… the finished quilt… wrapped up with a bow. My grandmother brought it home with her and spearheaded the undertaking of having my entire family put in the finishing stitches, including great grandfather Charles Edwards. This was and still is one of my most coveted belongings.

The grand reveal of Memaw’s Last Flower Garden

One of the other things I cherish and remember most about Memaw is that she was always in the kitchen. From morning, noon, to night if you were in her home, she was your personal cook to order chef. She made sure everyone that set foot in her home was fed and happy. I think I inherited from her, my innate obsession to make sure everyone that comes to my home is full and comfortable.

When Memaw passed away, I asked my grandmother for some of her written recipes. She returned to me on one of her visits to Missouri with a big photocopied book of recipes all written in Memaw’s handwriting. The ones she made that were especially liked have the words, “Real Good” scribbled at the top for special emphasis. Sometimes I flip through the pages and read them as though she is talking me through how to make her delicious southern style food.

Part of why I am writing in this blog is to share my cooking experiences and recipes, and a lot of what I know of cooking came directly or was passed down from this wonderful woman. The first of her recipes I have shared with you has actually never been written down. It was passed down by experience from Grandma Lovell, to Memaw, to my grandmother, to my mother, and then to me. The first family recipe I have shared with you is Memaw’s Sausage Gravy. You can access it by clicking on the recipe button below.

It was not an easy task writing this recipe down, as most of the measurements and cooking techniques are by eye and by feel. Even with guidance it took me awhile to get it the way Memaw would make it. So if you do attempt it, be patient with yourself, and make sure you try again if it doesn’t turn out the first time. A side note for this recipe… You can make it with bacon grease just the same as you would with sausage grease.

Please feel free to comment on your experience if you do try this recipe. I would love to hear about the successes and troubleshoot any failures with you all. I have many more family recipes to share with all of you, so stay tuned!

Lousie(Memaw) and Charles(Pepaw) Edwards

Until next time…

The Ag Wife