THE SIMPLE LIFE ON OUR OZARKS QUAIL FARM

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MISSOURI OZARKS, United States
After I retired I wanted to stay busy on our farm. My almost 30 year career was in the hunting & fishing industry, so raising the birds I had hunted for years was a natural for me. Being married to my best friend, wife & help mate is all I could ask for. My wife of 34 years and I love living on our farm and doing the chores it takes to maintain it. We are living a wonderful slow life in our retirement. Our grand daughter is such joy. Having a big garden to feed us, raising bees for honey, loving our pets and no debt. I feel blessed to have enjoyed this country living and sustaining our family through growing our food and simple ways my whole life. I am happy to see others across this great country deciding to live instead of just collecting more. A less-stress farm life is making us very happy. *******************************************************

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Signs of Spring

We have been good and busy on the farm lately.  We finally have our gardens ready for planting. All composted and rowed.  (We have planted peas and spinach already). We have 2 garden plots totaling about 5000 sq feet. One is for our family and giving food to others.  The other is for Farmers Markets sales. Mostly garlic, asparagus and herbs. We planted 20 additional blueberry bushes and 6 more apple & pear trees.  I just visited our neighbor on the next farm over from us.  I always enjoy their goats.

I was driving around our property just checking things out and noticed a flock of maybe 100+ Redwing Blackbirds eating in a cut field. . Always good to see them migrate in.

One of my favorite things is just sitting on our front porch early in the morning with a cup of coffee and watch the birds, deer and turkey. Very relaxing and makes this old man feel blessed to have always lived this farm life.  It's already time for incubating our bobwhite quail eggs.  We will sit a few thousand in about 10 days.  That is about a month earlier than last year, but there is such a demand from us we need the extra birds. Better get the brooder barns cleaned up and disinfected soon.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Getting Started On Spring

We've decided it's time to get ready for spring.  Made sure all our bluebird houses (we have 6) are cleaned and ready for nests.  I buy dried meal worms by the thousands for them. It's nice to watch them visit our many feeders enjoying their easy meals.  I'm not for sure how many bluebirds we have but it is a lot. Have been seeing large numbers of geese flying north already, seems to be early, too. Yesterday there must have been 100 gold finches invading all the feeders and probably 50 robins in the yard.  The cardinals always get a little weird this time of year.  We seem to always have a couple cardinals that fly up and hit the windows every so often all day long for a couple weeks. Really annoying. We are starting to prep the garden area.  We are doubling its size this year and may sell some at farmers market, barter some for other needs and give to family, friends, neighbors and needy. Making an are about 20 x 20 for a nice herb garden, too. Decided to not have chickens this year.  We have a country neighbor that has free range birds and needs to sell eggs to help her family's finances, so we will buy 10 dozen at a time from them.

All of our quail are gone.  We will start cleaning barns this weekend and rake up dead stubble from the fly pens.  Bought 50# of rye grass to spread in them, too. About 70% of our next years production is already pre-sold.  If the calls we have been receiving looking for late season birds is any indication there is going to be a rush for birds next fall and many won't get any from any grower.  We need more growers everywhere!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Birds About All Gone

We have been delivering lots of our final brood of birds and should be completely out in a couple weeks. It has been a really good year. We learned a lot again.  Lost a few but not near as many as the last season.  There is just so many small things to do to eliminate those loses. I have ordered eggs already for the upcoming season. I would like to expand again but I am going to just enjoy the size we are now and help my friend sell his birds. Our son is doubling the size of our gardens and getting ready to place starts under grow lights. My wife says the grocery costs rise almost weekly. Gas prices seem to keep us home more.  Our son bought an old Honda car that gets 40 miles per gallon. We're going to can and freeze more from the garden. We are preparing an area for about 20 blueberry plants and the same in raspberries.  Started our little orchard last spring and it did well. Have formed a little 'help each other' group with our friends and neighbors just in case it gets tough in our country. If you watch much news it's not looking good. At least we have a nice home and a few acres of land to live off of. Guess we could always eat quail every night. ha!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Time To Order Eggs & Chicks For Next Season Already

We still have a few thousand birds in our fly pens yet to be delivered. We will be selling them for all the orders we have for birds mostly in Jan. & Feb.  Many of the other game bird growers are already out and my phone rings almost daily for folks needing birds now. I hate that I have to tell them all the birds we have left are called for. I try to get them to order early next year for delivery now. Many said they will. My supplier is ready to take booking orders on eggs and chicks.  My buddy Larry is building a large brooder barn and pens so hopefully we will have at least 5000 more birds next season. I keep saying I am not going to get bigger but the demand due to growers retiring is causing a huge shortage at least in the midwest states.  Made a futures deal with my feed supplier for 20 ton of feed. Feed costs are low now so I am thinking I can keep my bird prices the same for 3 years now. Really learned a lot more this season so it keeps getting easier and bird loses have dropped. Have been getting a great reputation as having quail that fly great. The preserves that use us also get that good reputation and that increases their business. It's going very good.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Back To Work

With Missouri's main deer season over we are again getting calls to pick up birds.  It is always slow during that time. Nobody goes out into the fields with the deer hunters on the prowl. Met with a friend today about him raising some quail and helping us with all the orders we get. He said he would do 5,000 next year. The lady from the Mo. Dept of Ag came by and disease tested our birds. We were just fine and again renewed the NPIP certification seal.  Have been getting calls for a lot of quail as meat. We are not presently doing that, but we have a USDA inspected processor not far away so we may think about that as another outlet. Going to be in the teens tonight. I sure hope our 7 week old birds make it through fine. I really need them in Jan/Feb.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Seems Everyone Wants Their Orders Now

Last week, starting Thursday, a lot of our pre-order guys wanted their birds. I guess being November and cooler was the reason. We either delivered or had pickups of around $10,000 worth of quail.  My phone is still ringing often with bird inquiries,but I just can't help them out. Debbie & I have figured out a way to catch about 100 birds at a time in about 30 seconds with a funnel system. Even with my disabilities I can help a lot and it stresses the birds very little. This is fun and rewarding for an old retired business guy.

Monday, October 31, 2011

STILL BUSY

We are very busy with bird pick ups and deliveries.  Getting calls almost daily now for quail. Even getting requests from preserves, which seems strange. They should have gotten their birds already. Been getting a lot of request from hunters for a place to work their dogs. We have been sending them to a couple of close preserves. If I had the energy I would set up an area and charge a little for dog working. Weather is still fairly warm so the younger birds are getting bigger and stronger before the nasty stuff hits in the next couple months. Hopefully we won't lose many because they are all pre-sold. This is so enjoyable. I think I talked a friend of mine into putting up a few barns and fly pens to help supply all the bird needs. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

MORE DELIVERIES AND FARM PICK UPS

Every day now we are either catching birds to fill pick up orders or we are delivering. I enjoy delivering birds as I get to meet new folks and see their farms. Making weekly deliveries to the big field trial club at Grovesprings, Mo. Always lots of dogs and horses to dodge.  We just put the quail in the club fly pens and then go to the clubhouse for a little chat and refreshments. Great bunch of folks from all other the midwest. We are selling to a lot more to the private dog trainers.  They usually need 10-20 birds per week. We just place the birds in our specially designed trainer cages. They bring their empty cage back and exchange for a full one. If we are not around they just put payment in lock box and go huntin'. Works really good and the guys love the convenience.  We had our last hatch a couple days ago - 1700 birds. I'm sure it won't be enough but will make for a really good year.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Deliveries Going Strong

As the cooler weather and calender hits October the bird hunters start getting that itch.  We delivered hundreds of quail Saturday and had pickups all weekend. It's good to start receiving money instead of it all going out. I am thinking about buying a pickup with a camper shell for deliveries.  My van works fine and is easier to get in and out of with my bum leg, but the birds really stink up the van on longer delivery trips and Miss Deb is not fond of that.  Delivered a few hundred to Hay Hook Hunt Club in Norwood. Robert and his wife are really good folks offering very fair priced hunts. I really like it when couples do this together as Debbie and I do. As we get older we enjoy doing a lot more together than when we were young and career oriented. I am starting to enjoy being retired and not busy all the time. With our son and his family buying a farm a few miles west of us we get to see them and our grand daughter more. That is so good. I lost my mother last week. She was a wonderful mother to my sis and me. Alziemers finally took her.  I remember my father and I hunting most weekends many years ago and mom fixing our quail for our hillbilly family dinner. I miss her so. I  believe we will be together again one day.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

One More Hatch

Due to the demand for Feb, March birds I decided to hatch another 2,000 quail. They will be mature in January.  It is much harder to raise them in the cold weather if they are less than 8 weeks old. I will make sure the brooders are warmer (more expense) longer.  When I turn them out to fly pens we will leave the brooder barns open so they can come and go for shelter in case of ice or snow. We seem to be hearing from a lot more guys training their dogs. Maybe that's a sign more are getting back into quail hunting. Been building a lot of transfer cages.  Sure makes it easier to have birds ready when the guys or gals come to pick up.  They just bring a empty cage and pick up the full one.  If I'm not home they just leave money in lock box.  It's a trust thing, but I have never been cheated.  They always want more quail.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Calls For Birds are Daily!

Just as expected, we are getting calls daily for quail.  Had to decline over 1500 bird sale yesterday. That is hard for me to do, but all birds are pre sold already. Heard about another game bird farm that is downsizing due to health so his customers will be searching.  People are showing up at the farm with cages wanting to pick up birds and it's only September. Yikes!!! I might think about another brooder barn and fly pens next spring.  I am happy at my current level, but the need is there.  We'll see!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Birds are going to Hunt

We have started selling lots of quail last weekend.  The dog trainers have got the fever with the cooler weather here. We have stopped taking orders.  With the addition last week of more field trail bird orders all our production is called for. I guess that is good.  As an old retailer I just hate having no inventory but better sold out than setting on a bunch of hard eating quail.  Even though I'm not doing this for a living the money is good. My son has bought a farm and will build a house on it.  I think he will put up some fly pens and we can raise a few thousand more in the next season.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Lots of Birds in Fly Pens = Lots of Feed

We have thousands of birds running around the fly pens and they sure eat a lot. We are feeding over 25 bags per week and the local feed store really likes us.  We changed to a different feed store late last season.  We gave them a heads-up on making sure they do not run out of game bird feed for us. Since we are their only game bird feed account I was concerned they might not buy tons of feed for us, but they have really done good. I had projected feed costs being about $27.00 per 100# during this time of year, but surprisingly it is only $24.50/100#.  So profits should be better. Even though we have had extreme heat, we have hardly lost any birds at all. Those we do lose we donate to the Conservation department for taxidermy lessons for kids. We really watch their waterers and have provided lots of cover and even sprayed water on them every couple of days.  Really starting to get orders and inquiries daily. Some of my customers are increasing their orders due to more early bookings. We're about to the point of being booked up. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Birds Are About Ready to Sell

We will have a few thousand bobwhite quail fully mature and ready to go the first week of September. We will catch them if the temps are not over 80 degrees.  Last year we transported some in 90+ weather and lost over half of them due to heat stress.  We have many dog trainers that are really ready to pick some up.  Still getting a lot of calls for small amounts (<100>)of birds.  We really enjoy those sales since I get to usually spend some sportsman time with them when they pickup.  One of the bad things about life after my stroke is I spend a lot of time here at the farm by myself and sometimes I get lonely. It's a far cry from when I owned my sporting goods store and saw hundreds a day.  So the opportunity to meet new folks and view their culture is refreshing.  If you read this blog, I would welcome an email from you. I received one a few weeks ago from a guy in Alabama whose father also survived a stroke but was giving up on life. He said his dad followed my doings and now wants to try something on his farm.  That really makes me glad that I possibly might help someone through fighting my adversity. Even though these handicaps and issues can be a burden most of the time, there is so many other parts of my life that I have found that I am a much better person for this. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Setting Eggs

We are filling our incubators with eggs tomorrow.  I've decided to make this our last hatch this season.  Those birds will be full grown by January.  It's just hard to raise them when they are young and it's cold.  We just lost too many last season to take the chance. I know I will need more birds but I am happy at the level I am. Been raining off and on for a couple of days with a chance for more the next few days.  Seems like the gardens are burnt out even watering them as much as we did it was just too hot for a great garden season.  We harvested a lot and our son has been canning.  Tomatoes are very tasty and cucs are making great bread and butter pickles. The attitudes at my coffee stop are not improving. The old farmers have a lot of hay but many are selling their extra to the farmers in Kansas who are hurting.  They are getting $120.00 a bale.  It is $35 here.  Fuel delivery costs make up a lot of that increase.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

GOOD THIRD HATCH

We had a 86% hatch rate for our third hatch.  With the extreme 100+  degree hot days for what seems to be everyday we were really surprised and happy about that.   Our incubating room is not climate controlled.  Incubators are heaters for bring up to and maintaining them @ 99.5 degrees.  The problem is they are not cooling units.  So when the room got over 100 the incubator temps surged to 102 for a short time.  We had fans running on them but that wasn't enough for all day.  I figured it would really cause a lot of malformed or dead inside the eggs.  We had a few born a little early and some not quite right, but have lost very few chicks. I spoke with some other growers that have seen a lot of loses in the fly pens due the heat.  We have lost only 6 birds.  We made a lot of covers and it has really paid of.  I also called my egg supplier this morning. His layers are just not producing.  He is really hoping for cooler weather soon.  His temps in Kansas was 112 degrees Monday. But I will be getting almost all of the eggs I ordered next tuesday.  My phone is ringing a lot this week from dog trainers wanting to book birds. Just checked my outside barn thermometer, it says 104.  I'm too old too fight it outside in this heat.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Farm Happenings

I visit a diner for breakfast coffee a few miles from us a couple times a week. It's a good way to get out and visit with other local farmers. The extreme heat has just got everyone in a bad mood. It seemed to be a fairly good hay season and the dairy guys are making some money. Cattle & horses are hunkered around the ponds. Chickens aren't laying very well. There just isn't much talk around the table. We try not to talk politics, but we all are sick of the way our leaders are acting.  Inflation has hit us all hard, both for farm things and our home goods.  Although my feed bill has gone down per 100 quite a bit the last month. A good corn & soybean yield has helped that. But everything else from the pine chips I place in the brooder barns floors to the electric and propane costs have gone up a lot.  We are having trouble with black snakes getting into our brooder barns and eating a few quail chicks. I don't want to kill them.  They do a good job on mice, but it gets expensive to feed them $4.00 quail so we take them off to another area. Birds in fly pens are growing and we aren't losing any to heat. We built a lot of good covers and have lots of water available for them.  I suspect a lot of growers are going to be short on the numbers of quail they were hoping to raise.  I will be a few. The guys that sell eggs are not getting very good production which in turn hurts the numbers for all of us.
I will bet that when the season gets here it will be hard to get birds from any of us if they haven't pre-ordered from us. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

HOT!!!

100+ everyday this week.  Did get some overnight rain and cloudy this morning so maybe it will be only in 90's.  It's hard on the birds but they have lots of cover and grass to hide in all the fly pens. Keeping our water barrels filled for auto waterers. The incubators are running a degree too hot for a short time during the hottest part of the day, but won't hurt the eggs if it doesn't get higher for a longer period. Really need to air condition our incu room, maybe next season. Been eating a lot of our potatoes and green beans.Have eaten a few tomatos and cucs. Glad we are on a well.  Spoke to a friend of mine in town and his water bill for his garden is very high. Our grand daughter spent some time with us Sunday. That really makes our day. Our guard dog Shadow is guarding as he sleeps in the hedges trying to stay cool. Please keep your pets water full and make sure they have shade.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Moving Birds to Flypens

Our first hatch of quail is now 8 weeks and ready to transfer to flypens.  Our brooder barns are setup so all we have to do is open a small door at one end and the quail exit to the flypens. We are putting 900 - 1000 quail per pen. June was the 5th driest month on record so we really have to watch our waterers.  I am adding an extra waterer to each pen just to be on the safe side. Our feeders need filled every 4 days only. The flypens are shaded until 11:00 each morning.  They have full sun until 4 p.m. so we make sure the birds have plenty of cover to retreat from the heat.  We also run a water mister every couple days. I will be getting another big batch of eggs in a couple of days to set.  I spoke with my egg supplier and his birds aren't laying as good as wanted in this heat so he is having to short a lot of his orders.  I put my order in with him very early last year so I am first on his list.  This ain't my first rodeo. Lack of rain has really hurt the gardens, but we still are harvesting.  Tomatos about ready. Green beans coming on. Shaun checked his bees and thought there was about 80 pounds of honey in the hive.  Should put up a lot this season. Feed prices actually dropped last week due to corn, soybean futures dropping. I hope that continues.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Our 2nd Hatch was Very Good!

We just finished moving quail chicks from the hatch room to a brooder barn.  Out of 3,000 eggs we set there is now 2675 chicks.  That is a very good hatch rate for us.  It is such a hot spring the brooder heat system is not being used as much so our energy costs are lower.  We are so far enjoying a lower than normal loss rate on our first hatch in Brooder Barn #1.  But as I have proven before, that can change in an instant. I have my costs based on a percent of hatched to sold so any less loss helps the bottom line. I have been enjoying trying to live a simpler. less stress life.  I am now remembering life back in the 50's.  I found my old little hand held radio and now go out on my front porch with a big mason jar of iced tea and listen to my 'Cardinals' play baseball.  For those reading this blog and have those memories you'll know how great I feel being able to relax and watch the world go by in the country.  I am going to find some 'Green Hornet', The Shadow, etc. old radio shows I listened to in my youth and re-enjoy them, too.