April Showers Bring…..MUD!

Three goat kids playing on a beautiful spring day!  Photo provided by Lydia Burns

By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate

Along with the seasonal change, daily farm chores and projects tend to change with it.  Trees are in bloom, the ground has thawed, the grass is beginning to green up, and a lot of work is waiting to be done.

On our farm and probably almost all in our region, spring always brings a lot of fence mending.  High winds, snow fall, and down trees contribute a lot to the repairs that need made.  Most farmers have several fields to mend as grass becomes the primary nutrition source for our grazing livestock and must be rotated throughout the spring/summer months.  Just recently, we rounded up our cattle and ran them all through the chute to evaluate everyone’s condition and administer their annual vaccinations and de-worming.  Once they were vetted, they were loaded back on the trailer and hauled from our home field to a leased property that we recently finished fixing fence on.  Next we will be evaluating the parameter of the next pasture in their rotation to prepare for their movement there in approximately four to six weeks.  By now, all butone of our brood cows have had their calves, so monitoring will continue on the remaining cow.

Egg production is picking back up with the warmer weather and extended daylight.  Soon the coop will be cleaned out and added to our manure piles.  Speaking of manure, that has been another item on most farmer’s to do lists this spring.  Before the grass began to grow, we took advantage of the few dryer days we had to spread our manure on our fields to enrich the soil and put nutrients back into the ground of the fields that are harvested for hay. Some farmers utilize other products such as fertilizer, depending on what their soil needs.  The best way to know is by taking advantage of The WVU Extension Service and having them assist with collecting and sending in soil samples.  They have a soil probe making it significantly easier to obtain proper samples and their office will send them to the University for you, at no cost.  A complete analysis will be returned to let you know what your soil is lacking to better your crop yield.  Hay equipment is also starting to see the light of day to prepare to take to the fields as soon as the hay becomes mature.

A lot of folks are also getting ready to plant their gardens.  The same concept can be done with the soil and preparing your plot or installing fencing or protective measures from our beloved wildlife.  Rotating your crops is very important when planting in the same area each year, which is again something the Extension Service can assist with.  A gardening calendar is handed out to anyone interested for free from their office which gives detailed instructions on what to plant when. “If they have any type of diseased plants, they can bring it in here or a picture and we can help identify the disease,” informed Tucker County Extension Agent, Jesica Streets.  Nuisance insects can also be identified,  by Streets and her staff, with recommendations to repel.  “If we don’t know, we can send it to the specialist at WVU,” she explained.  The extension office also hands out WV tomato seeds yearly for anyone interested in raising them from seeds. “Typically in the fall we try to do a masters gardeners class to prepare for spring,” Streets added.  They also offer the Farmers Market for those with a surplus for those who need an outlet to sell their excess.  Some regulations do apply and an application needs to be filled out to participate.  For more information, please feel free to reach out to the extension service personnel.

Horses are finally starting to shed their winter coats and slick up for the warmer weather.  We allow our horses to go barefoot all winter, and actually two remain barefoot at all times.  The three mares that compete have started seeing the farrier every six to eight weeks to place or reset their front shoes.  Shows and competitions are picking up and they are being hauled extensively.  The three being shown have to be kept on a nutritional program to keep their fitness levels adequate for the respected discipline.

On the Burns Farm, owned and operated by Logan and Lydia Burns, a lot of maintenance is being conducted as well.  Mrs. Burns stated one important task is, “making sure fence and gates are sturdy and tight.”  She and her husband are also doing what many farmers strongly dislike, which is getting rid of briars and brush that has grown up in the last few months.  “We also are spreading fertilizer on our pasture and hay fields,” she said. “Since we also raise goats, we are starting to wean them from their mommas to get ready to sell at the market and to local 4-Her’s for the fair,” she added.  “It’s a busy time of the year.”

Paul Poling, owner of Mountain State Honey, took a moment to share with us what his daily routine looks like now that it is spring.  “Some bees are in apple pollination and all bees are back from almond pollination,” Poling said.  They are busy preparing hives for melon pollination in Delaware along with placing honey supers on their local hives for the early honey flow.  “It looks like it’s going to be a good year for locust bloom,” he added. As if that doesn’t sound like enough work, Poling and his crew are working to put together nucs (nucleus colonies to sell to others to start their own hives).

On the Adams Farm, Don and his family are working long hours this spring as well.  He is still having litters of pigs with one sow just put in the farrowing crate this week with another due in about two weeks.  “We try to farrow one to two each month,” he explained.  When weather permits, which hasn’t been often lately, Adams has been trying to plant his no till corn and his minimum till legumes and grass.  This means the ground does not have to be completely disked up to plant.  He also implements a method of planting corn amongst sod, however this year the grass grew too quickly for the corn to be planted. His intentions are to get it in the ground after his first cutting of hay when the grass is a more desirable height.  Adams was fortunate enough to haul a lot of his manure to his fields during the dryer days and what wasn’t hauled will be applied after he harvests the first hay from his meadows.  He plans to start his first cutting within the next couple weeks.

Adams’ cattle have been turned out on grass and his cows have been artificially inseminated.  He runs a bull with them for a period of time afterwards to cover any females who may not have took to the artificial breeding.  A garden is also on their list of things to accomplish, but Adams stated, “Normally we wait until after the thirtieth (of May).”

This season is probably one of the busiest for a lot of farmers in our area trying to recover from the winter and prepare for the summer.  Keep in mind as you are driving in more rural areas to watch for equipment out on the highways.  Most farms in our area are family endeavors, so also watch for children and pets as well.