Saturday, October 3, 2015

It's Vermin Season and Sustainable Variables

The last couple of days have been cold and windy here. No rain of course. We haven't had rain in over a month now. It seems like these days we either have way too much of something or nowhere near enough. No in between and just perfect periods. However the dry spell did work out great for getting the main hay harvest up so as usual there is a bright spot to whatever condition we are struggling through I guess.

This cold snap kinda shook some things up around here along with my leveling out of the big wood chip pile and the dry conditions. We have been finding snakes every where.

I removed the little foot long Garter Snake above trying to get under the door into the kitchen. I have cleaned two dead juvenile King (or Black) snakes from the various water tanks around the place. The chickens were pecking at a little Ringneck snake out behind the barn and the dogs were carrying around an adult King snake that was completely dead yesterday. When I tried to take it away from them they ran out into the Soybean field with it.

Every building has it's resident Tree Frog (or three) hanging out and the mice are moving in as well. They are all looking for water and warm hiding holes for the Winter now.

Except for the attempted entry of the Garter Snake though most seem to be failing to make it past the guard dogs, cats and chickens this year. I have even noticed a marked decrease in mice damage to the feed bags recently. I know Rocky the Rooster has run down at least one mouse and consumed it and I saw a group of hens pecking at another one just the other day.

Mouse control was a side benefit to getting the chickens I never even considered but I am happy about it!!!!!

The Moles have moved into the woodchip and raised bed areas though and only the dogs do much about them. The canine cure to moles is often more damage than it is worth however. My guess is the Moles move under the wood chips, old hay piles and mulch because the soil stays so moist and the worms and grubs go there. I was cleaning up the last remains of a round bale from the horse pasture yesterday and got the largest mole I have ever seen forked up with a clump of hay. Scared the beejeebus out of me when it fell out of the hay onto my boot.

I must say though that the annual Black Cricket plague was NOTHING this year. I still don't know if it was the new chickens or the timing of when I cut and baled the main hay field that did it. I saw literally millions of the crickets out in the field after I cut it but this year they did not make it much passed the barn lot. The chickens were running around catching and eating any that were in or around the barn but that doesn't explain the open areas they don't venture out into. I did see some much larger than usual Quail coveys and Dove flocks out there this year so another theory I have is the short grass and new well cropped sheep pasture created the perfect hunting and kill zone for the wild birds to catch the crickets.

The up side to that theory is when/if the need comes I can hunt the Dove and Quail. Wild life management on the Small-Hold is almost as important as domestic stock management so if I am doing something right that increases the game bird numbers I want to continue it.

Oh one comical side to the increased Dove population and Chickens was watching Rocky chase the Doves out of the barn lot. Whenever a large group of the Doves would come in to pick over the remains of the sheep feed Rocky would run over and chase em off. It was pretty entertaining to watch.

I am constantly amazed at the long term cause and effects of organic farming even on the small scale I have been doing it. Change one way of doing something or the time you do it, add in another step to the ladder or a different weather/climate variable and you change the entire outcome. I can see why diversity in farm life was an important factor because with so many variables it's really hard to guess which part of the whole is going to be booming and which lacking from one year to the next.

Sure it's interesting now when it doesn't mean the difference between eating well all Winter and starving but a grid down collapse scenario is not the time you want to be figuring all of this out either.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!!!

edit: Oh ya I was suppose to announce that Mrs. PP DID find and bring back the camera cord from work so we DO NOT have to order a replacement. Not sure why she insisted I add this but I will do anything to increase the happiness level of the Wife :)

Was that good enough honey?


  1. The farmers around here are in full harvest mood. Today I saw two farms with 3 semi trucks out in the fields waiting for soy beans. One farmer was tilling about 10 min behind the combine, talk about getting the job done. Corn next week for sure.Plus last minute hay bailing too.

    1. Rob - Ya the guys down here are bringing it in now too although not soybeans yet. Most are still getting in the last of the hay and corn right now.

  2. Go chickens! They do consume crickets and they do consume mice! I've also had some go for small (baby) snakes. Wish I could send you some of our rain. This hurricane is not being kind.

    1. Leigh - Ya we went for too much rain to none at all it seems. I saw two more damned snakes today as a matter of fact near the barn. They are looking for water wherever they can find it right now. The chickens do seem to be doing a number of the pests. Go Chickens!!! is right :)

  3. Thank you for letting the people know that I am not the goofball that you hinted at! They should also know that my happiness level is usually at a 9.75.
    Mrs. PP

  4. We want to get some chicken tractors out on our main grazing field next year to try and control the amount of flies that harass the sheep and cows during the summer. We don't have crickets on those fields either, probably because of the short length of grass, but there are some in the small far field, which is not cropped by animals yet because it is still not fenced.

    As for local wildlife....we have deer and wild pigs, and lots of birds plus a good sized river which has various types of fish in it. My husband is currently getting his gun license, so I presume that if things go down then he can go hunting. But you are right about how variable things are when farming on a smallholding. We have found that nature cannot be controlled, and just to get in sync with nature takes a whole bucketful of experience, some of which we have, some of which we haven't as yet got!

    Snakes! We have lots here. A couple of months ago my husband had to get rid of one which had got into the house, which I found very scary. I don't know if our chickens try to catch them (most of the time they prefer making a mess of the cow's bedding or raiding the veg plot and compost heaps).... but they will eat one if it is given to them. But we are going to start clearing out the areas close to the house which could house snakes in an effort to try and push them back. Moles? Got them as well. They first appeared out in the side field, then somehow moved themselves across to the veg plot. Not seen any sign of them during the last few months, but no doubt they will start appearing again once the ground starts getting wetter. I did not mind them out in the fields, but I sure as hell do not like them tunnelling their way under the vegetables we have struggled to get growing!

    1. Vera - I think controlling the flies would be more a barnyard thing or wherever the largest amount of manure is located. Least I think that's were our fly plague comes from. I am hoping next year the chickens will scratch up the ground and manure and eat the fly larvae. I can dream I guess :)

      Mrs. PP hates snakes more than me if that is even possible. Finding one in the house doesn't bother me as much but having to catch them does bother me. They make my skin crawl. I have always hated snakes with a passion. Not too fond of worms either to be honest. A buddy of mine once hated spiders so bad he would scream like me with a snake thrown on him. Spiders don't bother me a bit but snakes...ick.

  5. 90% of the big farms have all the wheat and hay in. Theone farm I saw doing corn hasn't harvested it yet.

    It's stinky season around here most of the farm trucks on the roadvthese days are shit haulers going to spread cow waste on harvested fields in prep of next year.

    We have had two days of cold (+1F) and high winds. We are supposed to get our first snow of the season tonight...yeh Another 2 or 3 weeks and the snows that fall will stay till march or so.


    1. Exile1981 - We have been in the 50's with little sun and down into the low 40's at night and wind wind wind too. It's been pretty chilly for early October actually.

      Ya know I rarely if ever encounter a manure truck anymore. Not sure what is different down here. Maybe we just don't have the numbers of cattle for them to find it worth while. That wouldn't surprise me Missouri has a lot of agriculture and it is varied but no really BIG operations. The fields are just too small generally.

    2. I have 6 or so feed lots with a half hour drive of my acreage. Lots of beef cattle in my county; that and wheat are 90% of the farms around here. A couple of chicken ops and there was a pig barn operation till a fire destroyed it a few years back. It smelled bad for days after the fire.

      Most nights we are going well below 32F every night and have been for a couple weeks.
      Last winter was less snow than usual; most yearswe have drifts higher than my bobcat which is what i dig us and the elderly people across the road out with



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