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The Sunday of Summer

Gone are the bright green grasses of springtime.  Like a slow-moving river, July has quietly slipped by us and now we find ourselves one third of the way into August.  The pastures are beginning to brown in the heat of this hottest month of summer.  There is a stillness in the air, a quietness that lays across the farm like a heavy blanket.  Chickens crouch in the shade beneath the lone white pine growing in their pen.  No scratching, no clucking, no dust baths.  It’s too hot.  Cows congregate on the shady banks of the creek, some standing in the water, some even laying in the water.  There will be time for grazing in the evening hours when it’s much cooler.  There are no songbirds, no crows, no chattering squirrels.  Even the insects are silent on this hot August afternoon.  Although the heat and humidity are oppressive, there is a feeling of peace that comes along with the stillness.  There is also a feeling of anticipation in the air because autumn is just a few short weeks away.

Summer on the Farm

Our egg operations continue to evolve.  We have a permanent coop now, one with a concrete floor and an automatic door.  We are making the switch to Gold Comets too.  We bought 30 started pullets in the spring and placed blue colored bands on their legs.  We will buy 30 more in the fall and put red colored bands on their legs.  This winter, we will sell all the hens that are not wearing a leg band and when spring rolls around again we will buy 30 more and place yellow bands on their legs.  When summer hits, the hens with the blue bands will be sold and then we will be set up with a rotational system where we purchase hens in the spring and fall and sell hens in the winter and summer.  The hens will be around 18 months old when they are sold, so they will have at least 6 more months of prime egg laying before they start tapering off.  This will allow us to sell them at $10 per hen which is what we pay for the started pullets.  This system will allow us to purchase fresh hens twice a year with no out-of-pocket money.  From spring to summer, we will have 90 hens.  From summer to fall, we will have 60 hens.  From fall to winter, we will have 90 hens.  From winter to spring we will have 60 hens.  The started pullets are around 20 weeks old when we buy them, and they start laying around 22 weeks.  Also, when they first start laying, their eggs are small, so this overlap (when we have 90 hens) will ensure that our production does not fall off while the young pullets are maturing.  Other things to wrap up before autumn arrives:

  • Install lights in the coop to provide a couple extra hours of “daylight” so that egg production will continue throughout winter months.
  • Install roll-out nesting boxes to keep eggs cleaner and reduce time spent washing eggs.  Also prevents hens from pecking eggs and eating them.
  • Install security camera and siren so that I can monitor the hens from my office and from my iPhone.  Whenever I see a predator (hawk, possum, coyote, fox, etc.) I can activate the siren and frighten them off.
  • Install a new watering system that utilizes a 55-gallon drum connected to a movable set of nipples.  Will also need a warming system to prevent freeze-ups in the winter.
  • Install a range feeder that I can close at night when the chickens are roosting.
  • Put in a sidewalk from the parking area of our driveway to the coop.  I want to be able to collect eggs in my bedroom slippers by not having to leave a paved area while doing so.

My goal is to reduce the amount of time that I spend taking care of these chickens to a bare minimum.  Once we get our farm store up and running, I will probably stop wholesaling eggs altogether and just sell them at retail prices here on the farm. 

When I finish everything on my list and have things running as I envision it, I may do a YouTube video so that customers can see the farm, see the chickens, and see the operations from start to finish (feeding, watering, collecting eggs, washing eggs, packaging eggs, and delivering eggs). 

Hot Summer Day

Anyhow, I did not want to let August pass by without a post and I’ll end this post with a poem by Helen Hunt Jackson…

August Poem

“Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen – that stillness becomes a radiance.” ~ Morgan Freeman

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Dad

For the month of May, for Mother’s Day, I wrote about Mom.  I’d be remiss to not write about Dad for Father’s Day and June is almost gone, but there are so many things to say!  What shall I write?  As I sat at my desk and pondered these things, a song written by Holly Dunn came to mind. If you’re a country music fan, I’m sure you know exactly which song I’m thinking of.  The name of the song is “Daddy’s Hands”, and I can think of no better words to honor my Dad (and ALL dad’s) on Father’s Day than sharing the lyrics to this song.  If you are not familiar with it, look it up on YouTube and give it a listen.  Grab a box a Kleenex first though!

Daddy’s Hands

I remember daddy’s hands folded silently in prayer
And reaching out to hold me when I had a nightmare
You could read quite a story in the callous’ and lines
Years of work and worry had left their mark behind

I remember daddy’s hands how they held my mama tight
And patted my back for something done right
There are things that I’d forgotten that I loved about the man
But I’ll always remember the love in daddy’s hands

Daddy’s hands were soft and kind when I was crying
Daddy’s hands were hard as steel when I’d done wrong
Daddy’s hands weren’t always gentle, but I’ve come to understand
There was always love in daddy’s hands

I remember daddy’s hands working ’til they bled
Sacrificed unselfishly just to keep us all fed
If I could do things over, I’d live my life again
And never take for granted the love in daddy’s hands

Dad

Happy Father’s Day Dad! Thank you for all of your love, guidance, and support down through the years. Thank you for being our family’s provider, protector, and leader. Thank you being a role model and for setting a high standard for me and my brother. We love you dearly.

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY TO ALL DADS!!!!

“A father is neither an anchor to hold us back nor a sail to take us there, but a guiding light whose love shows us the way.” ~Unknown

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Mom

Well, it is May once again, my favorite month of the entire year (at least until October). Every month has something special that identifies that month…

  • January – New Year’s Day
  • February – Valentine’s Day
  • March – Saint Patrick’s Day
  • April – Easter
  • May – Mother’s Day
  • June – Father’s Day
  • July – Independence Day
  • August – (okay, so August sucks)
  • September – Labor Day
  • October – Halloween
  • November – Thanksgiving
  • December – Christmas

May is extra special though. May is the month that we get to celebrate and honor our mothers with a special day set aside just to let them know how much we love and appreciate them. I celebrated my last Mother’s Day with my mom in May of 2017. She had Alzheimer’s and although she did not know I was her son, I made absolutely sure she knew that I was someone who loved and cared for her. God took her home on November 11 of that same year. She passed away peacefully in her bed at home. All of us were there, keeping watch and taking care of her. In the end, all we could do was keep her lips and mouth moist with a damp sponge, and carefully administer the morphine in scheduled doses to ease her pain. I did get to tell her I loved her before she passed and she managed to whisper back to me, “I love you too, honey”. Did she remember me in that moment? I like to think so. I like to think that God gave her a moment of clarity to say farewell. Mom was never one to draw attention to herself and never one to complain. She managed to slip away quietly that morning at the only moment no one was in the room with her. I think that’s the way she would have wanted it.

If your mother is still alive, make sure she knows how much you love her and how much you appreciate everything she has done for you. Don’t wait another minute, because tomorrow is promised to no one. And don’t just do it on Mother’s Day. Make it a point, make it a habit even, to call her and check on her every day, visit her often, and help her in any way possible that you are able. It gives you a good feeling inside and when your mom is gone from this world, it will help you focus on all of the joy she brought into your life whenever you think of her.

I’m going to share what I wrote for my Mom’s memorial page…

In the book of Ephesians, Paul instructs us to put on the whole armor of God, that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil…

14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

But what good is armor to one who is not a warrior? Who trains up a person so that they may be able to put on the whole armor of God and use it against the enemy? When I think of training a warrior, or a soldier, the image that comes to mind is one of a lantern-jawed, hard-nosed marine drill-sergeant, but the truth lies at the other end of the spectrum.

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” There is so much truth and wisdom in that old adage, for it is our own precious mothers that train us up to be warriors so that we may effectively wear the full armor of God against the enemy. Think about this…

How can we gird our loins with truth, without a mother to teach us about the virtues of honesty?

How can we put on the breastplate of righteousness, without a mother to teach us right from wrong?

How can our feet be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, without a mother’s love to guide us and teach us about true, unconditional love?

How can we take up the shield of faith, without a mother who is always there, comforting us when we are sick or hurting, assuring us that everything will be okay?

How can we put on the helmet of salvation and take up the sword of the Spirit, without a mother to tell us about the love and sacrifice of Jesus?

Thank you, Mom. I will miss you. I will remember you. I will honor you. I will always love you, and most importantly, I will one day see you again.

Happy Mother’s Day, All.

“All that I am, or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

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The Bradfords

This has been an unusually wet winter.  I cannot tell you how many times I have looked at the weather app on my iPhone and the forecast has been cloudy or rainy for all 10 days in the forecast.   Oh, we have had a pretty day here and there, but no long stretches of sunshine and cloudless skies.  Until now.  And now that we are finally having pretty days with warm weather and lots of sunshine, I find myself working the graveyard shift from midnight to 7:00 AM.  I work in the healthcare IT industry and I am very fortunate to be able to work from home.  I honestly cannot remember the last time I went into the office.  Right now, we are in the midst of a very large project that requires around the clock support for our healthcare providers.  It has been a rather difficult adjustment for me too.  I have no problem staying up and staying focused.  Quite the opposite.  I have trouble going to sleep and staying asleep for more than 4 hours.  Since this project started, I shower and go to bed at the end of my shift, and I am usually asleep by 7:30 am or 8:00 am.  But every day, without fail, I wake up sometime between 11:00 am and noon.  Curiously enough, I have found that 3 to 4 hours of sleep immediately after my shift and then 2 to 3 hours of sleep before my shift have been enough to keep me going.  But I digress, so let me return to the weather.  Tomorrow is my brother’s birthday, so I had to run out and buy him a card and a gift.  Since I started these odd hours, I have only ventured out to feed and water my chickens in the morning and to go to the gym for a quick workout in the evening.  But today, I had to go shopping so I ventured out, initially heading west to Seneca, and then changing my mind mid-course and turning around and heading east to Easley.  I ended up going to Academy Sports.  My brother, a teacher, retires this year and he has purchased a bass boat to while away his hours in retirement.  I intend to while away a few hours with him myself.  Anyhow, I went to Academy Sports and got some things for his boat that he did not have. 

Fishing

As I was driving along highway 123, I noticed two things: The litter along the highway is really piling up and the Bradford pear trees are blooming.  The litter is related to the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the schedules of prison work crews that keep our roads clean.  I say give them a mask and send them back out there, but that is another story.  The Bradford pears are the subject of this post and what I want to talk about.  I remember when those trees became popular.  Every house either had them in their yard or lining their driveway.  They were beautifully shaped trees with pretty leaves in the summer and thousands of brilliant white blossoms in the spring.  However, down through the years they have lost their popularity for several reasons.  Although the blossoms are pretty, they have a horrible aroma and although the trees were very uniform in shape, they were also very prone to breaking in ice and wind storms.  Lastly, the trees are an invasive species that will spread to neighboring fields and completely take over if left unchecked.

Invasive Bradford Pear

So, why am I writing about Bradford pear trees?  Because every time I see them blooming it takes me back to March 19, 1991 – the day our first child was born.  We had parked our car in the parking lot at Easley Baptist Hospital and I remember the day was sunny, the sky was a deep, rich, cloudless blue, and I remember pausing for just a second to admire the striking contrast of the white Bradford pear blossoms against that impossibly blue sky.  It was a moment in time that is forever etched into my memory and when I see a Bradford pear tree blooming, I recall that particular moment and all the excitement and wonderful emotions I was experiencing as I gazed up at that tree.  It is funny how things can trigger a memory.  Maybe the smell of play dough or finger paint calls up some fond childhood memory in elementary school.  Maybe a curtain stirring in the breeze or clothes hanging on a line calls up some pleasant memory of home.  Maybe a song on the radio calls up a romantic evening with your husband or wife, or maybe even a long lost sweetheart from your past.  These occurrences are like mini time machines.

Christmas Kiss

So why is this post about something as common and mundane as Bradford pear trees?  When I see them blooming, they lift my spirits and renew my hope for good things in the coming year.  They cause me to pause and reflect on the good fortunes of the past and to look eagerly forward to the good fortunes of the future. They take me to an “in-between time” where the memories that lay behind are sweet and the dreams that lay before me are even sweeter.  They fill me with an unexplainable happiness and, well… they make me smile. 

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”  ~ Ghandhi

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These are a Few of My Favorite Things

When you were a child, what were your favorite toys?  Sometimes, I will get on Pinterest and totally lose track of time browsing through vintage/retro pictures of all kinds of stuff, but for some reason my favorite thing to browse is toys.  From the little green plastic soldiers and the plastic cowboys and Indians (that came in a wide assortment of colors) to the G.I. Joe action figures (not dolls!) by Hasbro and the Best of the West collection by Marx, and from Matchbox cars and Hot Wheels by Mattel to a wide assortment of bright yellow Tonka Toys, there was never a dull moment in my sandbox.

Sandbox Toys

Sometimes I would spend hours with the Tonka Toys, excavating, dozing, scraping, and reshaping the lay of the land.  I would carve out valleys, raise up mountains, and lay down roads in the sand.  When I finished, I removed my Tonka Toys and set up an epic battle between the plastic cowboys and Indians.  Once all the figures were in place, I would get my Red Ryder BB gun and start picking off the bad guys.  Sometimes I was an Indian, sometimes I was a cowboy, but every time, I was on the winning side.

GI Joe action figures were another one of my favorite toys.  I had two of the GI Joe dolls (pictured below).  I had a footlocker to keep their gear in and I had a Jeep with a trailer that had a search light mounted in it.  Those two soldiers and I went on many missions together. 

GI Joe

But my all-time favorite toys were from the Marx Best of the West collection.  These were hands down the best toys I have ever played with.  They were 11” tall action figures dolls from the old West.  As a matter of fact, the main character in this family of dolls was named Johnny West.  I was very fortunate to have several of the characters along with their horses and every character came with a ton of accessories. 

Best of the West

Why are toys like these so great?  Because to play with them you must use your imagination.  It is as simple as that and it is so very sad that no one makes toys like this anymore.  I think almost all the Best of the West accessories would be considered a choking hazard now, not to mention the political incorrectness of having toy weapons and the cultural appropriation of native Americans.  Ridiculous, isn’t it?  Imagination is something we need to cultivate in our children and playtime is the most fertile soil in which to sow those seeds, nurture them, and watch them grow into a bountiful harvest, because while imagination is cultivated in our youth through play, it is used in our adult lives to overcome many obstacles in both our careers and our personal lives.  Make sure your children play and make sure they have the “right” toys to play with.  And make time to play with them!  It is an investment that will reap many returns for all involved, I promise. 

“Logic will get you from A to B.  Imagination will take you everywhere.”  ~Albert Einstein