Tractor Stuck in the Mud

My tractor is stuck in the mud. Now what? (To skip ahead to how I got it free, read this follow-up posting).

How did I get stuck? Well, I lost some hens to predators. I figured that the thing to do was to fire up the tractor, mow next to the fence while keeping an eye out for game trails through the grass, and then move the fence slightly. It’s just a couple of strands of aluminum fence wire on step-in fence posts, so moving it is easy.

That would deal with the grass that’s shorting out the fence and perform a reconnaissance that might reveal where the predators were coming from. On the tractor, I sit up high enough that I get a better view than if I’m on foot.


The Grass is as High as an Extremely Short Elephant’s Eye

It must be spring. The grass is getting way out of hand, but it’s too wet to mow. This happens every year.

Chickens on free range like short grass. Back in the Golden Age of scientific poultrykeeping (roughly 1910-1960), this sort of thing was researched. Chickens did best on grass that was 2″ high. Once it reached 6″ it became a barrier to foraging. If it gets even taller, the chickens are confined to a few paths through the tall grass.

Tall grass also shorts out electric fence and can conceal predators. A field that is kept short has a lot of succulent, green regrowth, and bright green grass is the only kind that provides any nutrition for chickens. This nutrtion, by the way, consists of more vitamins than you can shake a stick at, some protein, but no calories.


Feeding Random Stuff to Chickens

Okay, so someone has given you some exotic ingredient you’ve never heard of, like okra tofu, or banana seeds, or worm legs. Should you feed it to the chickens, and, if so, how?

The general rule for feeding miscellaneous stuff to chickens is to feed it in a separate feeder, while continuing to give them all the ordinary chicken feed they want. The chickens are pretty bored with the same old chicken feed and are sure to take an interest in anything new. They’ll eat as much as they want.

The trick is to avoid trying to make them eat more. Chickens are quite good at figuring out whether feed is good or bad, and how much is good for them. In fact, they’re better than you. So never starve them in order to make them finish off their yummy dish of politician’s hearts. Just take away what they don’t eat.


Tires for Rural Use

My 1993 VW Eurovan needs new tires. We had a flat, and while we were changing the tire we took a good look at the ratings printed on the sidewall, and realized that the tires that were on the vehicle when we bought it (a couple of years ago) are inadequate to the load.

We live two miles up a gravel road, and this is hard on our tires. We get a lot more tire damage than we did when living in the city. Whenever possible, we use six-ply commercial tires on our vehicles. And we do this the other way around, too, preferring vehicles for which six-ply commercial tires are available. I ordered a set of appropriate German-made tires, which of course no one has in stock and won’t arrive for a few days. They cost over $200 each. Ouch! This is the penalty I pay for choosing an obscure imported van. Commercial tires for more popular vehicles are cheaper.


If It Were Any Fresher, You’d Have to Slap It

Karen butchers chickens the day before the farmers’ market, meaning that the broilers you buy from us have been on ice for no more than a day. Compare this to supermarket chicken, where sell-by dates are about ten days out from the date of butchering.

Also, our broilers are lovingly handled and kept on ice the whole time. No middlemen, no half-trained help. That’s what small businesses and buying locally are all about.

And it doesn’t hurt that they’re the best-tasting broilers in the world, or that we raise them with respect.


Uncreaking Your Creaky Old Pets

We have a Dalmatian, Sammi, who’s getting up in years. She gets stiff and sore these days. What’s worked for her is glucosamine sulfate, which is non-toxic and available everywhere. If she gets her twice-daily dose, she’s much more agile.

It’s available in all sorts of forms, including kibbles and dog biscuits. She doesn’t like most of them very much, and we have to smear them with bacon grease or peanut butter to get her to take them. Anybody know of a brand that dogs find irresistable?


Five Hammers: Quantity over Quality

I can never find a hammer. Or a shovel, for that matter. I’ve got one around here someplace, but that doesn’t get the ditch nailed.

One day I couldn’t stand it anymore — I was spending way more time looking for hammers than I was using them. So I went down to the hardware store and bought five hammers: four unpretentious Chinese hammers that they were practically giving away, and one nice American one. (This was in the days when the Chinese could build hammers but not crescent wrenches. Things are a lot better now.)


Part-Time Farming as the Road to Riches

The best thing about farming is that it allows you to become an eccentric — everybody around you expects this — which is enough all by itself to gradually make you rich.


  • Farmers typically stay on the same farm forever, thus relieving themselves of the expense of buying a bigger McMansion every few years. For most people, buying houses they don’t need is the stupidest waste of money in their lives.
  • Buy a fancy new car? When your gravel road is going to ding it up and it’s always going to have half a ton of feed or livestock in the back? Are you crazy? Besides, no one expects you to. Everyone smiles and waves when you drive by in your elderly pickup. That takes care of the second-stupidest waste of money.
  • Nor are you tempted to buy a flavor-of-the-month politically-correct car, like a hybrid. Where does the half-ton of feed go? Even the most repellent snob won’t begrudge a small farmer his 10-mpg pickup truck. Face it, you’re surrounded by a cloud of political correctness (and possibly smoke from your worn rings) wherever you go.
  • And the same goes for clothes, too. A farmer doesn’t gain any points for wearing the latest fashions.


What Ever Happened to the Word “Epidemic”?

Looks like the 2009 H1N1 is likely to turn into a fizzle. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, since being sensible always involves a high click-to-bang ratio. That is, you can have a great batting average simply by waiting until all the evidence is in, but by then it’s too late to do anything. Sort of defeats the point of the exercise. So you decide on purpose to jump the gun and put up with the low batting average.

What irritates me is the way the news media, particularly TV, pander to the fact that they get higher viewership during a crisis, and so they need to create a crisis from whatever material comes to hand. In that spirit, they’ve removed the word “epidemic” from their vocabulary. In the real world, diseases go from “outbreak,” to “epidemic,” to “pandemic.” But the media has gotten to the point where any news-worthy outbreak is a “pandemic” — or at least a “potential pandemic” — while the word “epidemic” isn’t used at all.


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