Ponker - The Way It Is

Ponker

Loving the herd life
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How long ago did you start farming and what drove you to it?
We started our adventure about six years ago. I had changed careers and moved back to the USA. (Spent 8 years working abroad.) Then I fell ill. I had blood clots in my lungs and my life changed in one single moment of time. My legs don't work right anymore and I forget a lot - A LOT! My hands go to sleep and I drop stuff... anyway my life changed. My spouse is older than me by 18 years. We had the house where we raised our son with about an acre and a half of land. We decided to start eating healthy (we already had a big garden every year) by raising dairy goats and making our own dairy foods. And of course chickens...

Then, we found out that the county [THE COUNTY - not city] had zoned us out of our property rights. We purchased our property in the coutry so we could do as we pleased with it. Well, the joke was on us! It was forbidden to had orchards, paddocks, meadow, bees, livestock, corrals, chickens, ... and the list went on. it was a long list inclusive of every imaginable farming activity. The only thing allowed on our property was a pool, garage, and grass. I fought but was laughed out of the city council meetings. And then something happened... more people started showing up, and there was a lot less laughing. People were NOT buying property in the county due to their excessive restrictions.

During the fight with the county, we purchased a piece of timber property in Southern Missouri and put a cabin there. We spent most of our time at the cabin. As the county started relaxing their restrictions, we started comparing... and then we decided that paying to ask for permission to use our property via the permitting process, didn't sit well since we purchased our property free from restrictions. In essence they decided to ban us from everything and then allow us to do some things if we ask and pay. - no thank you. We sold our business and our house and moved to Arkansas on July 15, 2015 with our two dogs.

What state/province/country are you in and what is your climate like?
North Central Arkansas - close enough to Missouri to throw a rock across the state line. Well, that's an exaggeration. State line is only 12 miles North of our little homestead. Its a transitional zone, we still experience 4 seasons although the winters are mild and the spring and autumn are pretty wet. The summers are hot. We have a lot of ticks and chiggers.

How would you define your farm?
Our little farm is 16 acres. We have eight acres pasture and eight acres timber. We have a house, barn, chicken coop, shed, carport/duck house, and garage. There are two ponds on the property, one watershed on the pasture and one spring fed down in the woods. We sit on the top of an Ozark 'mountain'. We have just finished the front and sides fencing. We did 48" 4"x4" woven wire on the front with a strand of barbed wire along the top and bottom. Along the sides we did 'web wire' with 2 strands along the top and one strand of barbed wire along the bottom. The paddock next to the barn is now fenced with 48" 4"x4" woven wire with a strand of barbed wire along the top and bottom. I cannot WAIT until the rest of the permanent fencing is done but it is so incredibly expensive. In the meanwhile, we use electro netting temporary electric fencing and its great. Five 100' sections can make some pretty decent paddocks for grazing and I can move it around.

Ducks arrived first, ten Muscovies. As they grew, we realized we had six drakes and four ducks. Four drakes went to freezer camp. Got our first egg three days ago.

Rabbits were next. Four American Chinchilla registered rabbits made their way here from Southern Illinois! it was a heck of a ride. They were young and so we patiently waited for them to grow old enough to breed. As they matured, Gloria, a checkered giant, came to live here and soon her babies were born...

To qualify as a farm for the Natural Resources Conservation Service I had to have livestock, so two Katahdin ewes came home with me. My neighbor, a sheep man, has taken me under his wing and was helping me learn about raising sheep. He sold me my two Katahdin ewes. Later, I learned he bought them from the sale barn. I have started getting other advice and reading many many books. A lesson I learned very soon was that my neighbor, the sheep man, cut corners and generally didn't do things the way they should be done. I have since taken blood samples of my ewes and sent them off for testing for Johne's and OPP and since I has the blood, I did Scrapie geneotyping just for the heck of it. I now have 4 registered Finnsheep and Spotty, one of the Katahdin crosses just had two lambs. Eight sheep total counting the lambs.

Chickens came October 29th as day olds. Of course, they came in the house. It was far too cold outside for day olds. they stayed in the brooder, in the house for three week. A very long long three weeks. Then they went to the barn and finally to the coop. We have red and black dorkings, assorted favorelles, iowa blues, and guineas - lavender, pearl, chocolate, and one other kind I can't remember off hand. 25 total. Got our first egg three days ago. It was pretty cool to find our first chicken egg and first duck egg on the same day.

And now we have an Anatolian Shepherd, Prince. He is 17 weeks old. A handful.

And last but certainly not least, we have Tinker and Pongo our two house dogs who we treat like children. Cane Corso.

What would you do with your spare time if you had any resources you needed?
Probably jack up the barn. I can tell its not as high as it used to be. I think that project is one that will never get done.

Who or what inspired you to be a farmer/rancher, hobby farmer?
The American food supply is incredibly poisonous. I want to supply wholesome food to my son's family and my grandchildren. I plan to make an occupation out of it and a direction for my grandchildren to get involved with showing animals. So I am going to start showing my Finnsheep. Then I can teach my grandchildren when they get old enough.

My Finnsheep come from very good stock. I can market the wool, the breeding animals, and show stock. My Katahdins are for meat. At the very least, I'll get them to pay for themselves.

In what areas are you knowledgeable and in what areas would you like to learn more?
I've already been showed a path that could have ended in disaster. Thankfully, I have sought out more advice and educated myself through books and research. What I had thought was a wonderful mentor turned out to be someone who does things just enough, and hopes for the best. I will not take chances like that. Its hard to know when you're being led down the wrong path when first starting out and still learning. The hard part is knowing that I don't know enough and that there are so many opinions out there that conflict. What is the wrong way for one person is the right way for someone else. I need to learn more about everything!

In what types of farming will you never choose to do?
I'll never crowd. Never spread disease. Never sell dangerous animals. I'll never neglect or allow my animals to be sick or injured without care.

Where do you end up when you sink into yourself, away from the outside world?

Sitting in the pasture with my sheep. Or at the keyboard writing. I have several books out there on Amazon. Its what I do now... besides being a farmer and loving it.

Any random thoughts?
One thing I have found is that my life has started to revolve around poop. Is everyone pooping ok? Has everyone had a poop recently? That's not normal looking poop! And then there is all the poop, all the time. A never ending supply of great fertilizer FREE! That rabbit pee is like liquid gold.

I'm stressing a little over the flies this summer. I've ordered my fly predators and trying to keep the compost piles cooking but the outside of the pile is always fairly cool. Keeping the bedding picked up and clean. And using the odor spray which really works great to eat the ammonia with enzymes.

Well, that's enough for now. I'll continue tomorrow. Its time to feed the Finn lambs (bottle babies). Then I'll fall into bed completely exhausted. It sure is nice to be sleeping all night again. I always get that Green Acres song in my head when I think about my career abroad and my farming life now. There is no contest, farming is by far and away, hands down better.
 

Gemmer

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hi again Ponk, Thats quite a story! I really applaud your perserverance!
My tale is kinda similar, suffice it to say, after a crappy 20 year marriage, a bad divorce, and 10 years of single parenthood (no regrets on the child!), disabling severe leg injury, I am working on relocating with all critters to some land I outright own in Utah from New England soon.
I did make sure of zoning and clear title. And I have a beloved cousin and son not too far away.
Life here is too harsh, I no longer have any family in the area.
Kudos to you! We last much better with a life we can consider rewarding, despite the hardships!
Best wishes, will give progress reports of x country move.
Gemm
 

Ponker

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@Gemmer Kudos to you on taking the plunge to move! It was the best thing I ever did. You're lucky to have a place to go. Many people are just stuck with property and their situation changes but they can't get out. The mortgage bubble trapped a lot of people in upsidedown mortgages. And many people feel paralyzed with indecision and fear.

If they could change they won't because Americans have been conditioned to be afraid since 9/11/2001. I moved abroad for my career in late August that year and was actually on a plane to Heathrow after the attacks. It was one of the last to land in Heathrow before all the planes were grounded. I was stuck in London and remember the moment of silence vividly. Everything stopped and there was no noise. It went on for what seemed an eternity. A minute can stretch on and on. Every six months I traveled back to the states for a week or so. I watched the change at arm's length.

Being ensconced in the atmosphere of regulation, I didn't notice how government had taken total control until I wanted the dairy goats. And I wouldn't have even known about the zoning change but I was following a checklist I found somewhere on the internet. I'm a lot OCD and if its on the list, it gets done. I was shocked to the core to find the thick book of 'zoning' regulations and a whole new department of local government personnel to be supported by all the new fees. We were in the corn belt within a county that is agricultural based. HAH

My people are in Iowa, my son is in Kuwait (military), and my daughter-in-law in Oklahoma, and Mother-in-law is in Illinois.

My advice is, just go. Of course, it is still winter in New England so you might want to wait for better weather. Go be close to your son.

If I could be with my son and his family every day, I would. I miss him with all my heart. His wife is expecting our second grandchild on April 7. I will be going to Oklahoma to stay with her soon.

Take care
 

Pastor Dave

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I have a question for you @Ponker
After talking of the free fertilizer (which I can't agree with more) you mention the rabbit pee being like liquid gold. I have never heard of anyone thinking this. I know a lot that screen for the berries and just let the urine go on down to a pan or tote to discard later. With all the ammonia, what good is the urine because I have plenty?
Thanks
 

Ponker

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The rabbit urine is great fertilizer. It is really good after you ferment it. The Kenyans reported on how to do this.
https://profarmsmusic.wordpress.com...g-bio-fertiliser-from-rabbit-urine-powerpost/
I make homemade wine and the process is very similar except quite a bit faster for the rabbit urine. I haven't done that yet. I've just dumped the urine under my fruit tree drip lines and use it to keep the compost piles cooking nicely. I can't get enough of it!
 

Latestarter

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Kudos to you @Ponker for the stand you took and the move you made. Govt is NOT our friend, is way too powerful, and is well entrenched. Wishing you all the best on your new place. I'll be moving this summer to a bigger place for many of the same reasons you moved.
 

Gemmer

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@Gemmer Kudos to you on taking the plunge to move! It was the best thing I ever did. You're lucky to have a place to go. Many people are just stuck with property and their situation changes but they can't get out. The mortgage bubble trapped a lot of people in upsidedown mortgages. And many people feel paralyzed with indecision and fear.

If they could change they won't because Americans have been conditioned to be afraid since 9/11/2001. I moved abroad for my career in late August that year and was actually on a plane to Heathrow after the attacks. It was one of the last to land in Heathrow before all the planes were grounded. I was stuck in London and remember the moment of silence vividly. Everything stopped and there was no noise. It went on for what seemed an eternity. A minute can stretch on and on. Every six months I traveled back to the states for a week or so. I watched the change at arm's length.

Being ensconced in the atmosphere of regulation, I didn't notice how government had taken total control until I wanted the dairy goats. And I wouldn't have even known about the zoning change but I was following a checklist I found somewhere on the internet. I'm a lot OCD and if its on the list, it gets done. I was shocked to the core to find the thick book of 'zoning' regulations and a whole new department of local government personnel to be supported by all the new fees. We were in the corn belt within a county that is agricultural based. HAH

My people are in Iowa, my son is in Kuwait (military), and my daughter-in-law in Oklahoma, and Mother-in-law is in Illinois.

My advice is, just go. Of course, it is still winter in New England so you might want to wait for better weather. Go be close to your son.

If I could be with my son and his family every day, I would. I miss him with all my heart. His wife is expecting our second grandchild on April 7. I will be going to Oklahoma to stay with her soon.

Take care
Thanks, good luck with grandbaby.
Its only a little piece of desert, and few embellishments, but a lot can be done with it and things out there are much more reasonable. People much nicer too. Im my sons POA and Health Care Proxy, he has issues, but the University Hosp in SLC is so much more pleasant to deal with.
I know what you mean about 9/11, I ve travelled too overseas. The weekend following 9/11, my yoingest brother got married in Boston on the waterfront. It was so quiet like a horror movie. The reception was right across from Logan airport, I do think they had ever closed it like that. Not a single sound in an area known for its air traffic, not even any boats or ships.
Sorry off topic a bit.
Gemm
 

Pastor Dave

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The rabbit urine is great fertilizer. It is really good after you ferment it. The Kenyans reported on how to do this.
https://profarmsmusic.wordpress.com...g-bio-fertiliser-from-rabbit-urine-powerpost/
I make homemade wine and the process is very similar except quite a bit faster for the rabbit urine. I haven't done that yet. I've just dumped the urine under my fruit tree drip lines and use it to keep the compost piles cooking nicely. I can't get enough of it!

I guess I did not realize with the acidic level and ammonia that it was good for something.
I use pine pellets that are used in horse stalls and expand with moisture. Along with crushed or pulverized limestone and the wood pellets, I line my catch pans. This along with whatever straw or hay falls through gets dumped in the field behind my house and shed. I knew the rabbit berries, lime, and wood pellets were all organic and good for the soil. I did not know the urine was.
Thank-you for sharing.
 

Ponker

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I guess I did not realize with the acidic level and ammonia that it was good for something.

I don't have ammonia, or at least its not very noticeable. I feed 17% protein pellets and free choice hay along with BOSS for a treat every few days. I have read that ammonia in urine can be caused by too much protein in the feed. The urine I use has a rich earthy smell, not strong ammonia smell. I've used the urine diluted for soaking bare root starts like asparagus, strawberries and rhubarb, I poured the diluted urine right into the hole when I planted them. The strawberries are already leafing out. When I panted the two new peach trees, I used urine straight in the hole. They are budding. I poured it straight on my comfrey plants and they are thriving. They are planted under the drip line of my apple trees. I'll pour it on the soil under my grape vines today. Any leftover that I can't find a place for, goes onto my coolest compost pile.

I have a catch system under my rabbit cages. Simply tarps hung underneath at an angle to catch the berries and allow the urine to flow down into totes. Some of the hay also gets mixed with the urine but most of the dropped hay stays with the berries. I use seed starter trays to dry the berries in the greenhouse if I have any leftover from dressing my trees, plants, and soil.
 

Ponker

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On the 15th of March my little black Finnsheep ewe (who turned one this month also) gave birth to two little ewe lambs. They are the absolute cutest little lambs. I was so excited that the photos aren't the best. I was also in a hurry to get out the door. I was supposed to be on the road by 4am and didn't get started til after nine. I'm staying with my very pregnant daughter-in-law until my son can here from his deployment to Kuwait. She is due on the 7th of April but their first child came 4 weeks early. She is a high risk pregnancy and my son asked me to come - so here I am. (Oklahoma) Until sometime in mid April. I didn't have a chance to name the little ones yet. They were only a few hours old in these photos.
Athena's baby black and white.jpg
Athena's baby brown white and black 3.15.16.jpg

They are simply gorgeous little Finnsheep ewes. I'll send off their registrations after ten days.

New Momma Athena did everything right. The black and white lamb is bigger than the little brown one but the little brown one was already jumping around on her springy legs. Their wool is even different. it looks like the little black one got daddy's wool which is loose and lustrous and the little brown one got Momma's wool which is tightly crimped. Both were nursing and Athena's teats were cleared of the 'plug'.

I've made the hard decision to sell my Katahdins. They are shedding onto my wool sheep. BettyLou especially is loosing hair in huge clumps. I've seen it sticking in Athena's beautiful black wool and it ruins the wool having white hair in it. Ruins it for marketing a good product. So I'll sell all of the Katahdins. I had my two ewes tested for Johne's and OPP and scrapie codon 171. They tested negative for both diseases (relief) and RR! YAY. So I'll put that in the advert and hope a good farmer latches onto them.
 

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