2020 was a crazy year by any standards. A farm is a great place to be during a pandemic as there’s always lots to do, the scenery is great, and isolation is built in. Because of a more inward focus perhaps, there were far more wildlife encounters/ sightings than usual. Here are snapshots in time that capture the essence of 2020.
Highlights included: I lost James (15 year old Angora goat) to heart issues and gained a lot of Canada Goose friends (learned a lot about them – subject of another blog entry wip!). Re-did the pasture fences to fence out the areas now too wet for ruminants (meningeal worm) and began returning the soggy areas to wetland habitat for wildlife. Lots of fox, skunk family, and baby racoon interactions this year. Ghost (hen) got nabbed by a grey fox while out in the grass but I ran to the rescue and she put up a good fight. Once I found a specialty bandage she couldn’t pull off she healed up quickly and is no worse for wear!
|And then there was the time the red fox ran off with my mitten when I was standing less than 15 feet away!|
|Pine Siskins and Evening Grosbeaks are rarely seen in this region. They only show up here when there is a food shortage in their native region. First time I’ve seen Evening Grosbeaks here (23 years). There were crowds of both for a short time.||
A pair of bluebirds have nested in one of the front gate posts and had 3 nestlings they were feeding. Unfortunately a blue jay caught on and had been stalking the nest. The pair had been attacking the blue jay, taking it all the way to the ground until it would give up and take off.
Unfortunately on Father’s Day, the bluebird father was killed defending the nest. The blue jay was found eating the father in front of the nest. I don’t know that the blue jay directly killed the bluebird, it may have been an accident, but the outcome was the same. The mother now has sole responsibility for the the remaining two nestlings. Based on when I saw her incubating them (may not have been the 1st day) they could be ready to fledge as early as the June 23rd or it could be closer to July 1st.
After the body was removed, I made a predator guard for the nest using hardware cloth. [Plans for a Noel Guard can be found at various sites including Cornell’s NestWatch sites: https://nestwatch.org/learn/all-about-birdhouses/features-of-a-good-birdhouse/ or the VA Bluebird Society site: http://www.virginiabluebirds.org/about-bluebirds/nest-boxes-guards-signs/ ]
After watching for an hour, the mother still couldn’t figure out how to get into the house so I removed the guard. All I can do is keep the bird feeders behind the house well stocked and watch for any further attacks. There are lots of youngsters coming to the feeders with their parents right now including blue jays.
As of June 20th the mother is feeding them regularly and the nestlings look like they are doing well. Another pair of bluebirds has shown up in her area and I’m watching closely for any issues between them that would effect the nestlings.
Last updated: June 20, 2019
The photo says it all. Had to buy eggs for holiday baking as my ladies are still molting (so not producing many eggs at the moment).
Installing a super wash processing facility in the USA back in 2011 allowed the production of 100% USA produced commercial wool products for the first time. It rescued the American wool industry which could not compete with wool products made in other countries since USA produced wool had to be sent over seas to be super wash processed. Good or bad, in order for wool to compete with other fibers used in cloth/ yarns it needs to be super wash processed so it can be machine washed. A blog article by Pigeonroof Studios gives a good overview of the historical details and impacts of opening this super wash facility, in particular with respect to environmental issues.
The article is focused on large commercial producers, so when it says “Chargeurs is the only remaining top making facility in the United States, and one of only two remaining commercial scouring facilities.” it is excluding small USA fiber mills. I have my tops processed by Zeilinger’s in Michigan for example, but they are one of the few mills that process tops in small lots (10 pounds minimum raw, 5 pounds minimum washed). The other thing that has happened recently is that the military cancelled their contract for American wool and although it ‘s certain to have a negative impact on the US wool industry, it won’t be as bad as it would have been 5 years ago as many other commercial users are now taking advantage of the facility (socks for consumers, etc.). Chargeurs is still the only super wash facility in the USA but the minimums are too large for small producers unless they combine lots with other small producers.
The real issue with farming is that it is so labor intensive that the real cost of producing anything (eggs, vegetables, wool, mohair, etc.) is so high that no one will buy it at true cost. Eggs would sell for about $9/dozen to be equal to what they sold for back in the 1920s, after adjusting only for inflation/ value of the dollar changes.
The only way to make a profit is by economies of scale, using the cheapest possible ingredients, practices that reduce labor costs and depending on government subsidies. This translates into poorer feed quality, smaller living quarters (ridiculously small for chickens and pigs) and less attention to health in animals and large scale use of herbicides/ pesticides/ genetically modified plants and large equipment in the case of plant crops.
A somewhat humorous sidebar is that John Deere makes more money financing than selling equipment. [See: https://www.statista.com/statistics/271866/john-deere-net-sales-since-2001/which shows $23B in sales, net income $1.5B in 2016 from equipment, but $2.7B from financing (look at revenue by segment to get amount from finance)]. They are making their money by financing bigger and more expensive equipment to farmers who are trying to keep their economies of scale large enough to pay their bills (those big tractors can easily cost $500,000).
That’s why the majority of small farms have a second job to pay the bills that can’t be paid with their farm sales. Keep this is mind when you’re buying farm products. Do you want to use your money for products that have been produced using the best sustainable practices (kind to the environment) and which provide animals humane care or do you only care about the cheapest product? This is a social issue which receives very little discussion. I believe there has to be a way to feed and cloth people including those with limited means as well as pay the producers (small farmers) what it costs to produce the items and provide some profit. Small farmers are doing what we do for the perks: enjoying and assuring good life for animals and the environment, the ability to work in the great outdoors and to be our own boss. However, I believe they should be earning at least minimum wage for their efforts.
My second project ….
Used FLK (Fish Lip Kiss) pattern for sizing and heel. I used Turkish Cast On and Magic Loop from the toe up approach. This pair was done on two circulars, and I did an inch on one sock then an inch on the other sock in order to avoid the dreaded SSS (single sock syndrome). Still not quite ready for two at a time Magic Loop! It took me about 15 hours of knitting for the pair which was dramatically better than for the 1st pair (>40 hours). I can only hope this trend will continue!
The yarn used for the sock body was Rambler’s Way Handpaint Rambouillet DK (100% American raised wool and spinning) which is spun with a high twist. The heels were done in a worsted 2ply 100% mohair yarn which was very slippery and hard to knit with to keep about the same gauge as the sock body.
I also tried “Feeding Ducks and Holding Hands” stitch pattern for the top of the sock body (available as a scarf pattern free on Ravelry). I converted it to a knit only version (it’s written as a purl version). The knit version is initially slightly more difficult to do than as a purl version, but easy enough as long as the stitches are not made too tightly. Loved this stitch pattern as it’s easy to do as well as remember (no need to keep checking the pattern!) and looks fantastic with this kind of yarn (relatively short color repeats).
Due to the size of the yarn they don’t fit in regular shoes but are fine in boots or slippers.
Now to test wear ability vs version 1!
100% mohair is slippery and more difficult to knit with than all wool. Up to this point had only knit with my 75% mohair – 25% wool roving/ tops that had been handspun.
Next….Same pattern, but using superwash wool with 25% nylon ie-classic sock yarn. Already not happy with my choice – took 4 hours to convert the skein into a center pull ball. It’s also a very slippery yarn. The superwash process removes the scales from the wool (so it won’t felt) which not surprisingly makes the yarn slippery vs regular wool.
Fish Lips Kiss Heel by Sox Therapist
This video promotes an engineering feat – the industrialization of cage free buildings for egg production.
Even thinking about producing 1.1 billion eggs in only 10 layer houses in only 3 sites in the US is scary. They never show how the building looks from the inside (ie-hen view) but it’s pretty clear from the other video stills/links provided at the end how it will be. The “cage” is bigger and the amount of space provided is pretty much the same – way too small for a living animal.
People think they are doing a good thing by buying cage free eggs but big industry has figured a way to claim the tag phrase without allowing the hens to live like chickens. “Free range” has similar issues although arguably somewhat better for the hens as they are only crammed wing to wing at night (vs 24 x 7).
Use your money to provide good lives for hens by buying your eggs from a local small farmer where the hens ARE cage free!