Category Archives: Farm Happenings

Farm Store

Here is a list of our current items for sale:

  • Farm Fresh Eggs by the Dozen
  • Accepting Turkey Orders for Thanksgiving 2019. We will have both Narragansetts and Broad-Breasted Bronze ready for Thanksgiving  Please contact us early (now is fine) to reserve a Turkey. We have already ordered poults for this year, and we need to make arrangements for processing.
  • Assorted dual-purpose laying pullets. These will be ready for sale (off heat lamps, ready to go) in May 2019. Please contact us to reserve your order.

Spring 2015 Chicken Raising

Hi Folks! Chickens are ready to go! Please contact me in order to schedule a time to pick-up!You can use the comment button below or email me directly.
  • Steven- Your email bounces back! Please contact asap.
  • Tim told me he doesn't remember ordering from me (this is why I take deposits on large orders!) So I have one extra australorp up for grabs. 
Cinnamon Queen and Black Australorp Chicks

Cinnamon Queen and Black Australorp Chicks

Buff Orpington, Barred Rock, and Americauna Pullets

Buff Orpington, Barred Rock, and Americauna Pullets

  Hi Folks, A few updates. We have the following chicks in stock now (see pics). I have been slowly acquiring these over the past couple weeks:
  • 10 Australorps
  • 6 Americaunas
  • 5 Barred Rocks
  • 4 Buff Orpingtons
  • A few misc. including Jersey Giants and Cinnamon Queens.
All these chicks are healthy and growing fast. They should all be at 12 weeks in June. I am still expecting the following order on April 10th:
  • 10 Black Australorps
  • 10 Americaunas
  • 20 Cochins (a mix of black, white, barred, and maybe some others)
  Here is our current list of customers. If you don't have "standby" next to your name, you have a guaranteed order. "Standby" means I hope to be able to fulfill your needs, but have not yet order the birds and/or confirmed availability. Any errors or changes... please contact ASAP. Can you please send me your direct contact information if I don't already have it (Beth Casey, and Cheryl.. I have). Just reply to this post with your info, I WILL NOT POST IT ON THE WEBSITE, don't worry. Thanks!
  1. Liz = 3 Australorps, 2 Americaunas. Deposit Received
  2. Casey = 15 Cochins. Deposit Received
  3. Beth = 3 Australorps
  4. Kimberly = 1 Barred Rock, 3 Americaunas
  5. Tim =  1 Australorp
  6. Steven = 1 Australorp, 1 Americauna
  7. Jeanne = 2-3 Americauna
  8. Cheryl = First standby to consider purchasing any leftovers

Barn Addition

Well, I have finally got around to posting this update. This summer (and bleeding into Autumn), I finally finished the addition to the barn. This was subcontracted out (as there was no way I was going to undertake this project!), and my "Craigslist carpenter" was a bit on the slow side, but the price was right and it eventually got done. Basic design was a 16' by 16' foot addition (with loft) and an overhang on the full length of the barn (now 40'). This will allow alot more goat hay storage... and other "sundries" I have collected which are now under tarps all over the place. Enjoy the gallery.
Framing out the floor

Framing out the floor

Decking the floor

Decking the floor

Walls going up

Walls going up

Framing complete

Framing complete

Sheathing complete, and overhang started

Sheathing complete, and overhang started

Inside view

Inside view

Addition complete... and painted!

Addition complete... and painted!

Another view

Another view

Beaver Dam Solution Attempt…..for the Umpteenth Time

Swampy Acres Farm regular blog readers would be aware of our constant battles with the neighborhood beavers. For those who stumbled upon this blog you can read about some of our recent troubles here, here, or here. The beavers are at it once again, building a dam through the old culvert and flooding out the field. They have also increased their damage to trees. After dozens of attempts to curtail this activity, we have once again taken to trying a "beaver deceiver".
Recent beaver destruction of a maple tree.

Increased beaver damage to a maple tree.

A beaver deceiver is basically a pipe that runs through the dam. Beavers build dams instinctively based on the sound of running water and are often too stupid to notice that a drainage a pipe is breaching their dam. For this particular project, I found a 12" by 10' plastic drainage pipe on craigslist for 50 bucks. There is always the danger that beavers will figure out how to plug up the pipe, so I drilled over 400 holes into the pipe with a 5/8" spade bit. Hopefully even if the plug up both ends, the water can still flow through the pipe, which is now basically a colander!
Drilling holes through my "Beaver Deceiver" pipe.

Drilling holes through my "Beaver Deceiver" pipe.

So, I once again cleared out the entire dam. Some websites recommend you don't do this and merely place the pipe into a hole in the dam (maybe trick them into thinking nothing is wrong?). However, these particular beavers had built up so many rocks and much mud at the base of the dam... I couldn't get the pipe low enough to drain to the level of my satisfaction. At any rate, the dam got cleared and I strategically placed the pipe in the "pinch point" of the culvert where the dams are always built. I anchored it with two pieces of rebar driven as deep into the rocky mud as I could get. So far so good.
Beaver Deceiver installed

Beaver Deceiver installed

 
Beaver Deceiver from another angle.

Beaver Deceiver from another angle.

I do have a couple of concerns. I is that winter ice may dislodge this. one year I tried to build an exclusion fence around this area, which kept the beavers away in the nice weather. However, the thick winter ice literally demolished the welded wire fence and bent the 1/2" rebar post right in half! I am hoping this pipe will fair better. My other concern is that the beavers may try to plug the pipe up downstream instead of their normal spot. Unfortunately, the culvert is too narrow and curved to have another straight length of 12" drainage pipe. If this happens I may be able to sister a piece of 8" pipe in to increase the length. For now, we will sit and wait. Updates regarding effectiveness will be posted when available.

Mysterious Balloon Landing at the Farm

Unauthorized Balloon Landing in the Swamp

Unauthorized Balloon Landing in the Swamp

The other morning I am minding my own business... and all of a sudden I hear a "whoosh" "whoosh" sound outside. It sounded distinctly like a hot air balloon flying over the farm (something we are used to), but much, much louder.This was quite disruptive to the farm at 6am......The goats were freaking out, and the dog was barking... pandemonium.   After a quick investigation.. sure enough there was a hot air balloon out there, but this one actually touched down in the swamp! I was just about ready to put on my hip boots and wander out there... when suddenly they took off again. Why would a hot air balloon land in the swamp?? I don't know. At first I thought they were stuck on a tree or something, but apparently not. At any rate, a quick Google search on "Hot Air Balloon Rides in NH" brought me to the website of a company called "High 5 Ballooning". There are literally dozens and dozens of pictures of this exact balloon on their website (even the basket is an exact match). So, I wrote to the owners and asked why they landed... and got the following reply: Hello, I’m sorry but I think you have us confused with another company. We landed at the Pope Road Village condo complex this morning. You might want to try A&a Ballooning or Infinity and Beyond Ballooning. They were the other two companies flying this morning. Thank You High 5 Ballooning Again, this seems very odd, and further inquires to High 5 Ballooning were not answered. Who owns this strange balloon and why is it landing in the swamp? I understand it is customary for balloon owners to give a bottle of champagne to the owner of the spot where they land (I think it is hard to really land at a pre-designated spot... so they often touch down in fields, etc.). So perhaps someone is trying to cheat me out of my bubbly. If anyone knows who owns this balloon.. I would appreciate an email. Until then... I am watching.....

Poison “Volunteer” Squash: Be Warned!

 
"Volunteer" squash plant that rewarded us with poison squashes.

"Volunteer" squash plant that rewarded us with poison squashes.

Well, we had an interesting experience with squash this past weekend…. We got poisoned! Here is our story….. I usually rototill up the garden at the end of the year and invariably there are a few extra dried-up, overgrown squashes that get mashed into the soil. This spring a “volunteer” squash plant appeared presumably from these left over squash seeds. Even though this squash plant came up in the middle of a row (very inconvenient for weeding), I thought it would be fun to let it grow and see what it produced. This volunteer plant started putting out copious amounts of light green squash in the shape of a straight-neck summer squash (the variety I planted back in 2013).
Poison light green squashes

Poison light green squashes

All seemed well.. so far. This weekend, we picked a ton of squash and included one of these seemingly innocuous little green squash as well. The squash was sectioned and boiled all together in a medley along with some onions. It looked delicious. But the first bite soon gave a different impression. This squash side dish was extremely bitter.. to the point of being completely inedible. A few folks choked down a bite or two… and they were rewarded with stomach pains and explosive diarrhea later in the evening! Yours truly spit out the squash immediately and was spared any gastrointestinal distress…. I think I lucked out and bit into a “green squash” where the intense bitter flavor made it absolutely impossible to eat. Perhaps the others got a bite of a normal squash with only the juices of the poison squash mixed in. This made the taste somewhat more palatable.. and thus edible (but barely). A bit of internet research pointed me to the fact that hybridized squash will sometime revert to a more “wild type” and produce copious quantities of a bitter compound called “cucurbitacin E.” I also read that some “normal” squashes will produce this if water stressed. Curcubitacin E is bitter, and poisonous with the symptoms of ingesting being… stomach cramps and diarrhea. I am convinced this is what happened! So to all those with a garden out there… let this be a warning! Do not eat squash from “volunteer” plants and be very careful if you save seeds from curcurbits… unless of course you enjoy spending all evening on the toilet.

Fieldstone Wall Project

Hauling ancient stones to build a fieldstone wall.

Hauling ancient stones to build a fieldstone wall.

This summer I have been super busy and haven't had alot of time to keep up with the blog. In addition to the garden being in full swing, I also have been chipping away at clearing out the back goat field. The goats are doing a great job clearing out the brush.. but there are still alot of downed trees, trash, roots... and fieldstones to move out of the way. For those of you not familiar, New England is littered with fieldstones. They are everywhere. Most of them were brought down from Canada during the last ice age as the glaciers scraped along the soil. When the glaciers melted they left all these stones. They have been the bane of agriculture in the region ever since. Farmers were constantly moving these out of the fields (so as not to damage their plows) and at least half of Swampy Acres is still ringed with fieldstone walls.. probably 200 or more years old. The early colonist used to call them "devil stones." The reason being is that they would clear a field in the spring, the winter frost would heave more stones up to plowing depth and then magically... the stones were back. They literally thought the devil was putting them there! In addition to walls... sometimes farmers would just pile these stones in an out of the way place. These are sometimes known as "clearance cairns" or "stone dumps". One of these out of the way places is my back goat field! Sometime (maybe a 100 years or more years ago) someone dumped tons upon tons of fieldstone on a piece of of protruding ledge... and there they sat.
Stone Dump with trees growing through

Stone Dump with trees growing through

If you look at the this picture you can see a huge pine stump in the back (at least 60-80 years old). This tree rooted in the stone dump (not very stable) and ultimately fell over in a wind storm... this originally clued me in to the number of stones out there. As I started digging, I pulled out more and more stones... it seemed never ending! The small ones I place in buckets, the large ones I bucket out with the tractor. It is a bit of work to dig through a century of leaves, roots, and soil... it seems the rocks are intent on burying themselves again.
"Mining" fieldstones!

"Mining" fieldstones!

Digging through the detritus to clear these rocks.

Digging through the detritus to clear these rocks.

So far, in addiiton to clearing this out of my field, I have been having great luck building new stone walls with this material. The larger rocks go on the outside of the wall, the smaller ones (called "hearting" to stone wall enthusiasts) fills in the middle. Am I the greatest stone wall builder in the world?.. no.. and I am sure these will eventually collapse with frost heaves because they have no proper footing and whatnot. Maybe in hundred years.. there will only be a big long pile of stones rather than a wall. Still it is interesting to think that these stones were piled (maybe in the 1800's or earlier) in anticipation of being used in a wall, only to sit for centuries and ultimately become a fieldstone wall!
One section of finished wall. I cheated and bought some flat Pennsylvania fieldstone for the top. It looks nice though, huh?

One section of finished wall. I cheated and bought some flat Pennsylvania fieldstone for the top. It looks nice though, huh?

As of this writing.. I am still pulling stones out!

Fisher Cats in Hampstead, New Hampshire

The Fisher Cat is making a comeback in New Hampshire

The Fisher Cat is making a comeback in New Hampshire

Fisher cats (more widely known simply as “fishers”) were virtually exterminated from southern New Hampshire over the years mostly due to over-trapping and habitat destruction. Now these cousins of the weasel are making a comeback, mostly due to the fact that demand for fisher cat coats is waning an much of the farmland of NH is slowly converting back to forest (their preferred habitat).  It would appear that fisher cats are definitely prowling around Hampstead, as I captured one on my game camera last month.
Fisher Cat captured by a game camera in our goat field.

Fisher Cat captured by a game camera in our goat field.

Am I worried about them making a meal of my chickens (certainly one of their favorite snacks)… sure. However, I have built my fences pretty strong and I haven’t had any casualties thus far. However, I will be watching….. Update (28FEB2016)!  More pictures of the fisher cat. He/She must still be prowling around out there. WGI_0063 WGI_0064 WGI_0120

New This Year: Clamp-On Snow Plow

Custom Made Clamp-On Snow Plow Attached to our JD 2320

Custom Made Clamp-On Snow Plow Attached to our JD 2320

Snow plowing is ever so much fun! Since the town refuses to plow my street (it is a Class VI road, which means……the town doesn’t take care of it, but still taxes me the same) I need to do this myself. It has been quite a process learning how to plow a street most effectively with a tractor. Slowly, I have been modifying my equipment in order to get the best possible performance. The first year of plowing with the tractor, I tried to use just the bucket with a 600 pound concrete real ballast box. For those of you who have never tried this.. it is really hard to “plow” with a bucket. Basically, you just end up pushing the snow into a big pile that you then have to bucket it around. This takes forever, especially with the relatively small bucket on the CX 200 loader (the quick release, stock loader for the JD 2320). The next year I added a rear grader blade into my arsenal. This blade really will “plow”, but the problem is you need to drive through the snow first and it often gets so much snow wedged under it.. the tractor gets stuck (yes, even in 4WD with the rear differential locked). Luckily, I still had use of the bucket to push me out of tricky situations when I got stuck. The next year I tried the purpose built snow plow for the front. This is the John Deere quick release stock plow with hydraulic control. This looked great, but didn’t plow well. There were several problems. The first one is that you need to take the bucket off to put this plow on. This removes about 800 or 900 pounds of weight from the front of the tractor. So with the rear ballast box on the 3PTH, there is almost no weight up front and steering is impossible in heavy snow. Also without the bucket, if you get stuck.. you need to winch the tractor out (as opposed to “pushing it out” with the loader). Also the trip springs are pretty weak, and where constantly “tripping”. You can lock the plow in place, but I was always nervous about this as the plow seems somewhat “medium” duty (I dinged the crap out of it on the rocks within the gravel road the very first year). This year, I happened upon a “clamp-on” snow plow from a local company (Silver Lake Fabrication) that attaches directly to the bucket. This seemed like a good way to go to alleviate some of my other issues. I called the JD dealership to see if JD had a factory option like this. They reported, that they did not. They did have a plow that attaches directly onto the loader arms that would “technically” fit, but they do not recommend it. The rationale was that the loader arms on the CX loader might bend under heavy use like this. They did not recommend attaching a plow to the bucket for this reason (although they said many people do). I decided to chance it, and contact Silver Lake Fabrication in Concord, NH. I got in touch with the President of Silver Lake Fabrication (and probably the only employee), Aaron Leclerc. He was very friendly and explained how this whole process would work. I would need to send him very detailed measurements of my bucket so that he could handcraft my plow for me. $1500 (payable up front) for a 6 foot plow. He also explained he was somewhat behind in orders, and that it might take up to 6 weeks (if he didn’t get a needed shipment of steel from his supplier in the Midwest). I paid the man, sent him his measurements (and pictures of my bucket) and waited. Eventually, a few days later, I got an email from him indicating payment was received, and I would get an invoice soon. I never got an invoice, and I didn’t hear from SLF for a couple weeks. I contacted Aaron and he told me “good news”, in that the shipment did arrive from the Midwest and I that I would receive my plow “earlier than 4-6 weeks”. Again, I waited. After about 4 weeks, I called for an update. Apparently Aaron had lost my email with the measurements, so I again had to send him the measurements. He promised me my plow would be ready “by the end of the week.” The end of the week came and went and no update from Aaron. I called again, and luckily my snow plow would be ready on the weekend (more than 6 weeks from the original order date). When I went to the shop, it appeared to be simply a garage on a residential lot. After looking at the website, I expected a semi-professional shop, not a home workshop in a what essentially was a big shed. However, Aaron was very friendly and helpful and I did eventually get my plow exactly as described.
Aaron Leclerc from Silver Lake Fabrication,  winching my new plow into the bed of my truck

Aaron Leclerc from Silver Lake Fabrication, winching my new plow into the bed of my truck

Attaching the Clamp on Plow. I put a 1X4 under the clamps to "stiffen" the bucket up a bit.

Attaching the Clamp on Plow. I put a 1X4 under the clamps to "stiffen" the bucket up a bit.

Overall, if you don’t mind a bunch of hassles, delays, and unresponsiveness associated with an amateur (I guess it is hard to both be the only employee welding, and handle all the customer service) Silver Lake Fabrication is okay. If you are looking for something a little more professional (like actually providing invoices, shipping your plow vice picking it up yourself, etc.) , you probably won’t be happy dealing with Aaron. The plow is pretty heavy (~300 lbs.) and can’t really be manhandled easily, but it mounts as easily as can be expected. I am a little nervous about how much it “bounces” the bucket when traveling rough terrain, but besides this.. it works pretty good (see video). With the ballast box in place, and the loader still attached.. my JD 2320 is weighing in at about 3500 lbs. (1600 tractor, 800 loader, 600 ballast, 300 plow, and 200 driver). It is like a mini bulldozer and easily pushes the heaviest of snow on level ground (uphill, I can still spin all four wheels). I am very cautious of the loader arms and try to baby it as much as possible, but so far…. So good. Overall, this seems to be the best plowing solution I have tried… since I definitely do not want to shell out the 5 grand for a stock JD snow blower for the 2320!

Baby Chickens in the Mail? Be Warned!

Cardboard box used by Murray McMurray Hatchery to ship baby chicks.

Cardboard box used by Murray McMurray Hatchery to ship baby chicks.

Well, here is something I am never going to do again. I have always been leery of ordering chicks online and getting them delivered by the US Postal Service. It just seemed odd to me to get fragile baby chicks delivered in the mail. However, this time I relented because I wanted to get a very rare breed (Dorkings) and they are rarely available from local sources. So, I called up Murray McMurray Hatchery in Iowa and made my order. Because of the fact I was ordering them in winter, I had to get a minimum of 25 chicks (apparently because they huddle together for warmth, and the more, the merrier). So, I ended up ordering 5 Dorkings, 10 Partridge Rocks, and 10 Golden Laced Wyandottes. I ordered them in November, but Murray McMurray informed me they couldn’t ship until January (probably has to do with their hatching schedule). Despite the fact I ordered two months in advance, they called me up in early January and told me that the Wyandottes would not be available, and they wanted to delay shipment for a couple weeks. I asked for a substitution instead of a delay and they offered me 10 Dominiques, which I accepted. Eventually, the chicks were shipped on time and I was notified by text and email (as I requested) which was very convenient. Then all hell broke loose. At 5 in the morning someone from the Post Office called me (my cell phone number was on the outside of the box). He would not reveal his name, as he said he would be fired for calling me, as he was “just a schmuck that loads the trucks” and shouldn’t be doing this. At any rate, he said he had my chickens and they were going to freeze on the truck. He instructed me to call a number to the Post Office in Manchester, NH and request that the driver put them in the heated cab. I did call the number, but the clerk there told me they already shipped. Later that day, I got a call from my local post office that my chicks had arrived. I headed down there to get them, but in the interim… they had been calling me repeatedly. It would appear the well-meaning Post Office employees had opened the box to try to give the chicks water (probably letting all their body heat out in the process). They also drove them to my house (I am at work) as I am pretty close to the office, and no doubt they sat in a cold car both on the way there and back. I wish the box was labeled with instructions on what to do (keep warm, don’t feed, etc). The fact is that a box full of peeping chicks is just irresistible to curious mail-people and no doubt they thought they were helping me. The net result was I had a box of dead and half dead chicks. However, inexplicably, there were only 20 chicks. Apparently Murray McMurray did not have any Dorkings (the entire reason I made this order in the first place!) and just shipped the other 20 without asking me, but they did credit my account the difference. I tried to revive as many of the survivors as I could under a heat lamp… a couple limped around for a day or two, but eventually died. As you can imagine this was heartbreaking for everyone associated with Swampy Acres, and no doubt, the Hampstead Post Office. As of this writing, I have only one survivor out of 20. I had to go buy a few more chicks at the local grain store, as you can't raise a solitary chick. I called Murray McMurray immediately and they were very understanding. They offered to ship me out an entire new batch (just on my word that all this happened) in February. I said.. let’s wait until spring. So April 7th, I will get a new batch.
Baby chick survivor and friends.

Baby chick survivor and friends.

All in all, from this experience, I can’t recommend ordering chicks via mail in the winter. The combination of freezing temperatures and the fact that the Post Office employees have no idea how to deal with baby chicks, seems like a recipe for disaster. I will say Murray McMurray did a pretty good job helping me. They didn’t get stressed out or make me fill out a bunch of forms. it was easy to get someone on the phone. It was a plus that I spoke with an American rather than a help desk in Burma… always great if I can conduct business in English. So in summary, be very careful when considering chicks by mail! Swampy Acres has not had success on the first attempt.