Archive for April, 2016



Yesterday Gene and his nephew, Micah, went to a bull sale at the Rockingham Country Fairgrounds in Harrisonburg. He wanted a white-faced red Hereford to replace “Big Red” that I wrote about in “Big Red’s Last Ride”. It was dark last evening when Gene came home with BBF Harkradar 34X B29, a white-faced red Hereford bull. As Gene backed the cattle trailer up to the pen to unload him, he started making “I am here” big boy bull noises.  He could smell the other cattle on the farm. We put him in a small lot with some younger bulls and heifers for the night and what a ruckus they created. They romped and played and they chased him round and round the pen as they tried to figure out who he was. We decided to call him Radar.


This morning Gene opened the gate and let him wander into the “big boy” pen where the other bulls are resting and putting on weight before they are turned out to the cows and heifers in a few weeks to begin the intense breeding season.


He ambered out to pasture as the other bulls came running to check out the new intruder.


Within seconds, all mayhem broke loose.  Big Boy Angus stumped his feet and pawled the ground throwing dust high in the air while lowering his voice 3 octaves as if to say, “who do you think you are, I am King Tut here” as he stormed out to alert the other bulls who were quietly resting under the trees about the “young squirt” who had just entered their domain.


The bulls/steers in the feedlot pen beside the bull pen went absolutely berserk.  Radar was more concerned with them then he was the bulls and became very vocal as he expressed his manhood. We sure were glad there was a very hot electric fence in between but held our breath it would suffice.  (You can see the action in the video at the end).


Forget Radar…the bulls barely acknowledged his presence in the field. Instead, they instantly went after each other; bullying, dualing it out, heads locked together, their testosterone raging!




The white-faced bull is a home-grown offspring of “Big Red”.


While the big boys dualed it out, Radar wandered around checking out the turf before finally getting into the tussle.

Radar was born September 19, 2014 in Goochland, VA.  We thought it was neat that he got to come back east to make his home 30 miles from where he was born and raise.

Click on the link below to watch a video of the bulls in action.


Follow up note: The next morning all was peace and calm in the bull pen. Maybe they simply worn themselves out or else they figured out their status quo…. at least for this moment!


Recycling Plastic Bags = Mats for the Homeless

Plastic Bag

Would you like to do something useful with the stash of plastic bags you carry home from the grocery store, Wal-Mart, Target and many other places besides stuffing them into drawers or putting them in the trash and filling up landfills?  I have a very useful and creative idea for you.

Wanda Starke and plastic mat

Several of the ladies at our church are crocheting plastic mats for the homeless to use as a moisture/warmth /comfort barrier between the ground and their sleeping bags.  It can make the difference between life and death for these folks. And yes, it is made out of plastic bags. It is amazing how soft and durable they are, plus they are washable.  Each mat takes approximately 375 bags-depending on the size of bags.

You can use any lightweight plastic bags including the yellow bag they stuff your newspaper in on rainy days.  The short video clip below shows how to cut the bags and join them together into a long yarn.  Our ladies use size “N” to “P” crochet hooks.  With the “P” hook you start with a chain of 40 stitches across and make it 6′ long.


A completed mat, ready to be delivered.

If you are interested in crocheting mats, you can google “plastic bag crochet” and find numerous websites that tell you how. Here is one:



You Can’t Believe Everything You Read

This picture and information periodically makes it way around social media. It is full of totally false and misleading information. Let me tell you why….

False Info on Calf Hutches

This is not a veal or beef operation. Veal is not raised this way and beef calves are raised by their moms. This is a very large dairy operation.  The person who took the picture took it from the back instead of the front.  Let me tell you about the hutches….

If you notice each hutch is immaculately clean which is amazing for such a large operation but it shows the care and respect that the farmer has for the welfare of his livestock.  Each hutch also has a ventilation vent in the back with an open front. The hutch measures 79″ long, 54″ high and 46″ wide.  If you figure the size of the hutch and the size of the newborn calf, the calf has more square foot for its size than a horse in a 10’x10′ stall.  With the hutch, the calf has protection from the weather (rain and sun), ventilation, an exercise area and its own private space which helps prevent disease.

If you look very closely at the first row at the bottom of the picture, you will notice there is a wire fence area in front of each hutch for the calf to have a romping area in the sunshine.  The picture below shows similar hutches from the front.


If the picture had been taken from the front, you would have seen happy calves napping on a pile of clean straw, with feed and water close by.  The calves are bottle fed milk twice a day.

Before they are taken from their mothers, they have gotten several good feedings of colostrum milk (a mother’s first milk) which is essential for healthy calves to thrive and survive.  The separation of calf and mother is seldom stressful. Within a few minutes or hours, she has forgotten about her calf and the calf almost never reacts. But if they are weaned at several months, that is a different story. We have found beef cattle to be much more protective of their young.

One thing people have to remember is the importance of animals in our own existence and health. We need milk to drink.  A cow can not produce milk for a nursing calf and for human consumption as the calf would get it all. For us to have milk to drink and the many other wonderful and necessary food items such as butter, cheese, ice-cream, baby formulas, yogurt, cottage cheese, puddings, cream, etc. the calf has to be raised by hand-feeding.  This is true if you have one backyard cow, a medium size herd or a very large operation.

The calves live in the hutches for several months until they are weaned. They are then moved to a larger fenced-in pasture area with other calves where they grow to maturity in two years and become dairy cows themselves.

I personally would love to visit a farm like this. I can’t imagine feeding that many calves and how much time and the number of people it would take.  There is some speculation the photo is photoshopped. Maybe. Maybe not.  Very large farms will produce a lot of calves.





Brown Eggs Versus White


There is a big misconception in people’s minds that brown eggs are better than white eggs. Let me explain.

There is no difference between a brown and white egg. It is simply a difference in the color of the shell.  The difference comes in what a hen eats.

Commercial growers use White Leghorn hens.  They are smaller in size,  have the best feed to egg conversion, and lay white eggs. They are a flighty, more high-strung bird. Backyard and producers of free range eggs prefer more colorful, docile breeds such as Barred Rock, Rhode Island Red, Red Sex Link, Buff Orpington, etc. that lay brown eggs.  The more grass a hen eats, the richer and darker the yolk.

People think brown eggs are better. That is often true simply because of what the hen eats.  Because hens grown commercially aren’t fed grass, their yolks are lighter in color. White Leghorns that free-range or are fed grass have the same rich color of yolk.

Some frequently asked questions:


  1. Are blue and green eggs cholesterol free? There is no scientific proof that this is the case. Again, it is simply the color of the shell. Americana and Aracauna hens lay colored eggs. The quality of egg is determined by the diet of the hen. Hens fed Omega enriched feed, have added omega health benefits.
  2. What determines the size of egg? The amino acid balance in the feed helps determine the size of egg. Some hens, such as bantams,  naturally lay smaller eggs. I feed Purina Layena. It is formulated for extra large, jumbo eggs. However, I have found that you do not want to feed it to Bantams or Leghorns or you will have trouble with “blow out”.  I recommend you use Purina’s Country Acres or Homegrown formulas for these birds.
  3. How do I know what color of egg my hen will lay?  A hen will only lay one color of egg. Most hens are brown egg layers.  White egg layers have white ears.
  4. Why are fresh hardboiled eggs hard to peel? Fresh eggs are almost impossible to peel. An egg has to be about one week old before it peels easily.  If you need to hardboil fresh eggs, put 1 tsp. baking soda in the water and tap the egg on the side of the pan to put a crack in the shell before cooking. They will peel much easier.
  5. How many eggs will a hen lay each day? At the most, a hen will only lay one egg a day. They go through cycles and a hen will not average an egg every day.
  6. Why do they quit laying in the winter?  A hen has a light-sensitive gland in its eye that determines their laying cycle. When the day length shortens, they stop laying and molt. And yes, this is in the winter. As the day starts lengthening, they feather out again and start laying.  You can prevent this by putting a light on a timer and lengthening their day to 18 hours. Do not leave it on all night as they need time to rest and sleep.
  7. How can I get a double-yolk egg?  The first several weeks a hen lays what we call a “pullet” egg.  It is very small and helps to get the hen adjusted to laying eggs. As she starts to lay larger eggs you will find some double-yokers.  Once she is adjusted to laying, the eggs are more consistent in size. As the hen ages, you may again see some double-yokes. I actually have had some triple yolks and several times I have had a complete egg, including the shell, inside of an egg. That was exciting!
  8. What is the best white egg layer?  White Leghorn.
  9. What is the best brown egg layer? Golden Comet or Red Sex Link. They are the same hen, just called different names. They are a cross between a White Leghorn and Rhode Island Red. You get the egg production of the Leghorn with the disposition and brown eggs of the Rhode Island.
  10. Why are the beaks clipped on some ready-to-lay hens?  They do it to prevent cannibalism. That is a very bad problem with hens.  If they see a hint of blood or sometimes for seemingly no reason, they will attack and degut one of their own. This is an awful problem. I personally will not buy ready-to-lay hens that aren’t debeaked. It does not hurt the chicken nor does it hamper their eating. Animal rights activists will disagree but I prefer a nipped beak to having a hen that is literally degutted live by another hen. With free-range or only a few hens this is not a big problem.


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