Above Photo: The “Rolling Prairie” has arrived. It was Christmas in September! More on this story below.

Well, it finally happened folks…I missed the deadline last week and Week 34 never made it to your inbox. I can assure you that Week 34 did happen, I just was so far in the weeds that I couldn’t muster two hours behind the computer to document it. To be honest, I was not right with mind, body or spirit enough to write, and for those of you who write in any form or fashion know that creative writing needs a certain energy. I’m going to blame it on the rain. Well, it was most likely that low-pressure system that kept us in the washing machine all week. There is something about the power of the sun and its ability to heal, lift moods, and create growth–both physically and mentally. I think last night was the first time I had experienced a sunset in over 10 days. While the rain gauge was damn near overflowing (we got another three inches after I dumped it), my personal gauge was empty, bone dry, and in need of a good soak.

The tank was empty and then enter stage left, the “Rolling Prairie.” It’s my latest pet project and soon to be a one-of-a-kind catering and event business. I don’t have it all figured out yet, but it’s coming together and it looks promising. The forces are aligning and beautiful collaboration efforts are seemingly lining up. I’ve planted more seeds in the last 60 days than I have in almost five years. It feels wonderful, invigorating, and gives me a new drive and purpose. If I didn’t feel so old in the morning when I get out of bed, I’d say the Rolling Prairie is bringing back my youth. If you are reading this within earshot and you have a big event or gathering coming up, let me know and I’ll share everything I can about the wood-fired trailer and mobile kitchen that pulls it. I can assure you, this is a special kind of rig and your guests will be talking about it and the food born from it well after the rockstar event is over!

The 7-8+ inches of rain (I mean, who’s counting after 5?) probably came at the best time within our farming calendar. I got the oats out, new grass seed in new pastures was planted, we are in a window between hay crops, and the corn is still a month away. Not to mention, fall bred heifers haven’t started calving yet. All in all, it could have been much, much worse. The upside is that the ground moisture table is full and we are all set for fall regarding rain needs. Even better is that we are full going into winter, and spring looks a lot better with this much moisture deposited in the bank. Dad always says, “never curse the rain.” That statement always sits in the back of mind, even when it rains day after day after day after day. How about another famous ‘Dad quote?’ “This too shall pass”….and it has, and we will enjoy our emerald green grass and our lush blooming flowers. Oh yeah, and don’t forget the sunsets!

How about a good farm story? So, I probably mentioned that we have a new batch of laying hens, pullets if you will. We bought them at 22 weeks old instead of starting with chicks. That way we don’t leave anybody high and dry without eggs. That’s the upside…but you knew there was a downside, right? Well, it’s called “training,” and these greenhorns are clueless. If we raise them as chicks, they grow up in the mobile hen house. It becomes their home immediately and they know how to jump up on the roosts, they know where the nest boxes are, they understand the little door at the end is their ticket to freedom. However, with our latest flock, they are already grown and new to our training game, which goes a little something like this:

Step 1: We lock them in the house for a week without letting them out. AKA this is your new house, you sleep here and lay eggs here.
Step 2: We let them out into their new world covered in green grass, sunshine, and bugs to chase.
Step 3: Yes, you must come back up the ramp each night just before dark. We wall off the sides of the ramp and create a funnel.  My boys grab long flags, maybe 4 feet long, and start waving them high in the air. The hens think it’s potentially a predator or threat and they head for home. With the help of the funnel, they all seem to know that the ladder back up into the house is built just for them.
Step 4: Repeat Step 3 night after night until it’s time to remove the funnel and hope they have it figured out.
Last night I went to check on them and 245 made it up the ramp and into bed. Five failed the class and perched up under the hen house. I’ll take those numbers considering they are new to our world and high expectations.

One side note to this hen house story. A few weeks back, before we got the new batch, I told the guys to just park it and fence the area in a low spot in the pasture. It had been dry most of the summer and I wasn’t concerned with any chance that the rain would flood that area. WRONG. Of course, we got a huge series of storms and the low spot became a smaller version of “crick runneth over.” The hen house is built on a running gear and plenty high off the ground, but we had to use the tractor to budge it from its resting spot in the mud. Three weeks ago I believe my words were, “It would have to rain for a week before this waterway would be a problem. Let’s just park it here for the new birds coming.” I remain your humble farmer…

The forecast looks great, and all these seeds I’ve planted are going to start sprouting and breaking through, searching for the sun and warmth.  It will be the busiest fall I’ve had in a long while. What a challenge, but oh so much fun. I can’t wait to share it all with you over the weeks ahead….stay tuned!

Your Farmer,