March 2009


We caught these fine lads playin’ and singin’ at the Beasley Orchard Heartland Festival last year. and my oh my, they are awesome. Do give them a listen. And be sure to catch them at the Taste of Tippecanoe coming up on June 20.  We would sure like to see them play at the Story Inn some weekend. Rick, get these boys down to Story!

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American Valve, meet Hu Jintao!

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One of the single best blogs written on all things wonky in our financial system is by Yves Smith, over at Naked Capitalism.  She continues down the path of reason,  fighting the good fight, as our administration plods along, kissing up to Wall Street and the American banking industry. Bookmark her site, now, and read it everyday. It also contains a wealth of links to other top notch articles.

In particular, do read the article, The Quiet Coup, by Simon Johnson over at The Atlantic.

I’ve spent my share of time reading many books both past and present that supposedly tell us how to build the perfect company, using cutting edge management disciplines, CRM, marketing magic, and the latest in social networking.

The most “successful” companies aren’t making it happen because they just implemented some software, targeted emails, blogs, blips, whips, or whatever. If you are in the industry of hype, that is the last thing you would ever say to a customer. You have a job to do, and so you must. And if you don’t believe your own pitch, you may in the near future.

Let’s face it, the hard work is all about transforming the very nature of how a group of people, AKA the company, think of themselves as individuals, as members of the company, and how they interact with their customers.

I did this over the years, as a participant in corporate America, and for a spell actually started believing much of the hype surrounding the next big thing, written by the hep cats of the boardroom.

Well, first of all, in case you didn’t notice, this is a bad time to listen to most experts, especially when you are paying for their advice. You won’t find many heroes in the business section of your local bookstore. Frankly, I wouldn’t trust most of them to wash my car.

So I started looking for real stories, about real people, who made successful businesses, and did it in a way that didn’t make me wince.

Well I recently found one, and it is pure gold. If you read this book, and “get it”, count yourself fortunate. You may actually still have your moral compass reading true, and it will guide you home, through the troubled waters of this dark night.

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The first step in building a coop that works for you is to have a look at several designs, and understand the reasoning behind them. For example, you may want a structure big enough to walk into, or, if you have limited space in your yard, a smaller design with access doors to the inside.

The good folks over at Backyard Chickens have pulled together a great variety of designs, with lots of pictures. You may also want to contact your local agricultural extension office for useful information.

There are numerous books that can help you get started. I always suggest that you start at your local library. The first book I read was Hobby Farm Chickens, by Sue Weaver. It is easy to read, full of good information, and inspiring. And it is small enough to slip in your coat pocket, and read anywhere.

Another good one is How to Raise Chickens, by Christine Heinrichs.

In my last post, I had mentioned the metal watering fountain as a better choice over the plastic variety. Here is a link to a nice 3 gallon size, available from Rural King.

I recently read that our first lady, Mrs. Obama, is planting a garden on the White House grounds. Everyone should do the same this year in their own backyard. If ever we needed to rekindle the concept of a Victory Garden, it is now. Victory over bad produce, shipped by truck from far away places. Victory over complete dependence on someone else for the very food you eat. Victory over an economic machine that literally, is turning mankind and nature into a sort of monoculture.

Eleanor Roosevelt also planted on the White House grounds, and inspired millions to do the same.

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Have you ever considered having your own laying hens? How about fresh eggs every day, a reduction of the food trash you throw away, and great fertilizer for your garden?

A great place to start is your local library. Grab a couple of books on poultry, and familiarize your self with coops, feed, chicken varieties, and such. I would recommend building your coop before you bring home your chickens.  When building your coop, think about recycling whatever wood and other materials you have on hand already. Have feed ready, such as layer crumbles, and cracked corn. You can buy these at your local Tractor Supply, or Rural King. The two piece plastic feeders (white top, red base) are good.  They will need a good watering system. I don’t recommend the plastic varieties, especially the similar white and red heated model. The lip that acts as the font sticks out beyond the main body is not heated, and in cold weather it will freeze. And it only holds a couple of gallons. And it is made in China, so avoid it. I recommend the large metal galvanized type that holds five gallons. You can also buy a galvanized metal heated base to go with it. Both of these you can buy at Rural King, and they are made in the USA.

If you plan on letting your hens free range, they will in general be much healthier, and in the warm weather months will keep down the ants and other bugs.  You can use almost any type of fence to contain them, and move it around periodically to keep them happy, and spread the fertilizer. Just be sure you close their coop at the end of the day. Raccoons and other critters will try to get your hens, so build accordingly.

Most folks who are just starting this type of adventure won’t want to start with hatchlings. I recommend going with juvenile birds. McMurray Hatchery sells Started White Leghorn, Reds, and Black Star Pullets that are 17 weeks old, fully vaccinated, and ready to start life at your little slice of paradise. 

Another option that is great for folks living within driving distance of Knightstown, Indiana is the Knightstown Sale Barn. This is a great place to buy hens, and it is quite an experience. here you’ll easily find almost any type of hen or rooster (be sure you ask if you are not sure). And remember, you don’t need a rooster to get eggs. If you are a suburban hobby farmer, your neighbors will thank you for not having any roosters.  At the Sale barn, you can usually find chickens, pheasants, quail, ducks, geese, pretty much anything with wings.

There are some caveats when buying at auction. You don’t know the vaccination history of the birds. If you aren’t familiar with chickens, you also may not know how old they are, and hence how they are laying. But usually the price is right. Be sure to bring your own cage, though some sellers do inlcude the cage in the auction price.

In my next post I will be providing a coop design, links to other designs, as well as many other links to help you become a productive hobby farmer.

Morning Bounty

Morning Bounty