Events Page

Crop Duster in July 2022 (January 2023)

Those of you following along on this journey will know that we have several incidents of crop dusters working the neighboring fields impacting our farm. I registered the farm on Field Watch/Drift Watch after the first time hoping that this would somehow get the crop dusters to respect our desire to keep their spray off of our land. It turns out that there is no 'policing' or consequences via Field Watch/Drift Watch. Ever since, the hubby has contacted the company that hired the crop duster(s) to find out what chemicals are being applied so we can record it and take appropriate actions. (You can find out who owns the plane from the numbers on it and from there who has contracted them to work the field... you can even get contacted when they will be in your area and see live-streaming of their paths as they apply whatever it is they are applying.) 'Appropriate Actions' basically means we cannot market what is affected as being grown without chemicals.

In the summer of 2022, we met a nice couple who live in the area when they became customers for honey and berries after seeing our road signs (hurray for road signs). As I wrote up their receipt and they were talking with the hubby, we got around to the dilemna of crop dusters and found out that he was retired from the Missouri Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Pesticide Control, Plant Industries Division. He told us that there are procedures to open an investigation into overspray and that it is taken seriously in that if the investation produces proof of infraction, the perpetrators can be legally penalized. You should have seen our jaws drop.

And so it was that on the 6th of July when the field to the northeast (across the road) was being worked by a crop duster at around 5:45 pm with winds at 15 mph FROM the northeast (meaning a LARGE amount of drift) I knew what to do. I once again went out and photographed the plane as it flew near/over the house capturing the registration number/letters. This time the plane was flying REALLY fast and dropping it's application from higher up than I can remember seeing them work. I could smell a sickly sweet smell; getting a headache within minutes. The field was planted in corn and it was in full flower so it's hard to say if the smell was from pollen or chemical. The hubby made a call to the company and left a message with his usual question about what was sprayed asking for a reply call (which never happened). He also saved screen captures of the plane's path throughout the flight.

I went to the MO Dept of Ag, Bureau of Pesticide Control website and initiated an investigation. There was a long form to fill out and one of the first questions threw me (I had been outside and downwind of the spray and developed a headache, but I didn't know if it was from the spray or the corn so couldn't figure out if I should answer that I had physically been impacted by it). Since there was actual contact information "if you have questions" I sent a request with my question about how to fill in that question on the form. While I waited for a reply, I filled in the rest of the form as best I could. Surprisingly, I got a reply and spoke to an actual person (they told me to put my clothing into a bag for testing). They helped me figure out the form and I submitted it. They told me who would likely be contacting me and when.

Within a couple of days, the inspector had called me, set up an appointment and assured me that they take this seriously. He ended up having a cancellation and was able to come out sooner than our appointment which was just fine with me. I was also assured that whatever had been sprayed would still be present to be discovered because those applications are intended to stick around even after rain (part of the reason it is a problem when oversprayed onto someone else's plants).

First we sat on the front porch and he went through my submission, asking me questions (confirmation/clarification). We then headed to his truck where he pulled out his 'kit' to accumulate physical data. He swabbed my clothing and secured the swabs and labelled them. Actually, the whole process was like watching a forensics crew on a tv show. Then we went down to the orchard which was what would have been most impacted. He pulled leaves off a variety of the trees/bushes there and bagged them individually like the swabs.

Once he had gathered everything and had it stowed in the container in his truck, he filled out his paperwork and gave me a copy because he had a printer in his truck-office. I didn't even have to wait for an email to get that, nice.

The down side of this is that the laboratory gets SWAMPED and so I should not expect to hear anything for up to six (6) months. Which just goes to show how uncaring the crop-dusting industry is about affecting other farms. Heavy sigh. Well, I already had assumed the worst and did not plan to sell the apples (and yes, this year we actually HAD apples). I really just wanted to know. To date (January 21, 2023), I have not had any news about the investigation.

I will tell you that while he worked, we chatted a bit; and he thought that, yes, the path of the crop duster was erratic, the height at which he applied the product was unusually high, and the speed was excessive, and the wind was at the high end of the allowable spectrum. However, there are compensations that can account for the height and wind in the application process; meaning it is still possible there could be no impact on our land. He also told me that most of the applications he was hearing about at that moment were for fungus due to the wet spring/early summer. Which also meant that our honeybees might not be hurt while/if they were working in the corn blossoms. (A matter of scientific dispute that I won't get into.)

It was somewhat reassuring to talk with the nice man. There were no promises made, one way or the other. I hope I eventually get the results.

UPDATE (May 2023)

I received word from the Department of Agriculture! In an official letter dated March 21, 2023, I was notified in reference to the pesticide complaint I filed on July 7, 2022, alleging that my property and person had been impacted due to an adjacent pesticide application... DRUM ROLL PLEASE "...the investigation is now complete and based upon the evidence collected; we have reason to believe that violations of the Missouri Pesticide Act have occurred."

The letter goes on to outline what those violations are, who made them, and what the chemicals were.* It also says: "In accordance with the results of the investigation, regulatory action has been initiated against the above applicators."

Will it make a positive difference regarding my farm as far as the action of crop dusters is concerned? Who knows, we will just have to wait and see. You can be sure that I will file a complaint each time there is overspray on my land. Actions must have consequences.

*The chemicals were: Metconazole and Pyraclobstrobin (the active ingredients in Headline) and Cypermethrin (the active ingredient in Mustang Maxx).

Adding New Fruits the Non-Interference Way (April 2021)

If you've been following along over the last decade, likely it is that you have heard me say that I don't have a 'green thumb.' If I want a plant to grow, it usually dies. If I actively try to kill a plant, it thrives all the more. This is why I do best with plants (especially perennials) that I can simply plant and ignore. It is also the reason I search out native plants since they LIKE to be left alone to do what they do best.

When I decided to get out of livestock (other than the honeybees that the hubby enjoys so much), I actively went looking for more native fruits/berries to fill out what we could offer to consumers. It is difficult to find native fruits and berries that produce what most people want to eat. There is a reason why hybrids do so well commercially: the native stock is bred or grafted to a variety that does well but needs the hearty health of the root stock to survive specific environmental conditions. The trouble is, those hybrids still need to be looked after and we are back to the original paragraph and my dilemna with growing plants.

I decided to start with blueberries and raspberries. Unfortunately, I find I did not photograph the planting of the raspberries, so I'll just give you a description of my process.

Red Raspberries

I figure that raspberries like what the blackberries like since they are both brambles. So, I chose to plant them on the south side of the house 'backyard' directly east of where the blackberry canes are located. Since the blackberries start at the west end of the fenceline about ten (10) feet from the fence, I started the raspberries at the east end of the fenceline also about ten (10) feet from the fence. There is a large area between them that allows us to get the tractor/mower into the big yard east of the back yard.

The raspberries don't need much space between them and there were 15 plants (5 each of 3 varieties grouped in a set by Johnny's Seeds): Prelude (early, summer-bearing), Encore (mid-to-late season, summer bearing), and Polana (early, fall-bearing).

They arrived bare-root, so we put them (with their packing material) into a bucket with a little water to continue keeping the roots moist. Then I marked where they would be planted with step-in posts (about 2-feet apart).

The hubby used the sharp-shooter shovel to make a cut into the turf, I slipped each bare root into the slit making sure the plant was level with the ground and he poured some water (about 1/2 gallon) into the opening with the root. After the water had soaked in, I stepped on either side of the newly planted root to press the soil firmly together again. (This is similar to how 'no-till-drill' planting works, by the way.) I know it sounds like it's pretty quick, but when you are doing 15 plantings, it takes a while; mainly waiting for the water to soak in.

All I have done to maintain these plants is mow around them and weed-whack the taller grass etc. from around the individual plants a couple of times during the year. I am doing my best to ignore them, but even more difficult is not pulling off a berry the first year. They would know I see them then, LOL.

UPDATE January 2023: I was surprised to see a couple of berries in 2021, since I did not remember to label each plant, I'm assuming they were the fall bearing plants. In 2022, I discovered that seven (7) of the plants had died. The rest had a few berries through the summer. I've ordered another 15 plants, so fingers crossed that the replacements survive being planted.


I bought a set (put together by Johnny's Seeds as complimentary plants) of three (3) organic blueberry plants: Patriot, Jersey, and Northland. I read the instructions provided by Johnny's with the information about spacing, planting depth, amendments, etc. before we headed out. The hubby did all the work on this planting so I could record it photographically.

I decided to plant these three (3) blueberries in the south most row of the orchard at the east end of the row because there was room.

This image shows the tools and such that we used.

  • Wheelbarrow for excess soil, plus a little soil from the big pile (the red one).
  • Wheelbarrow with compost/humus (the black one in the back).
  • Sled to carry some straw and shovels (both spade and shooter) and posts, etc.
  • Bucket with the new plants and small amount of water to keep the roots/packing damp.
  • 3 white buckets to haul water.
  • Step-in posts to mark the location of the plants.

After I marked where I wanted each plant with a step-in post, the hubby noted the location, moved the post out of the way and cut through the turf using the spade shovel (yes, that may be redundant, lol).

We know the circumference of the circle needed is about the same as one of the 5-gal buckets, so he cuts all the way around to get that size.

He then goes back in and uses the spade to lift that 'plug' of turf and sets it upside down next to the hole.

This makes a hole about 6" deep.

He removes about the same amount of soil to make that hole 12" deep and puts that soil into the wheelbarrow.

He gets enough compost/humus to bring the depth back up to 6" (without compacting it).

We pour about a 1/2-gallon of water into the compost/humus and then add a bit more compost on top because the water 'settles' it a bit.

Here you see the amended hole ready to receive the plant and soil.

The hubby uses the shooter shovel to break up the 'plug' and we remove any obvious noxious weeds from the soil.

We use the soil from the plug mixed with some compost/humus to fill around the plant.

FYI, I hold the plant in place so that the plant is at the level of the ground while the hubby moves the amended soil in around the roots and fills up the rest of the hole.

We then use a remaining water from a 5-gal bucket to water in the plant and soil.

We do this a little at a time and here you see the first round has soaked in quickly.

We make sure to go all the way around each plant with water to get even watering and each time it takes longer to soak in.

When it stands on the top we know the new soil is saturated to capacity.

The dry soil around the newly planted plant will wick some of that water away so we want to be sure there is plenty so the new plant will not be robbed of moisture.

Any remaining material from packaging is added to a bit of soil/straw to create a mulch on top so that amended soil is not left bare.

And then we do the whole process for the next plant, etc.

Below you see the tags for each plant. I arranged the photos to correspond with the location of each plant in the combination photo to the right of the tag photos. The rest of that row in the orchard has a peach tree, an apricot root stock tree and aronia berry bushes in between and on either side of the trees. This row is just north of the berm that separates the orchard from the septic system laterals (about 30 feet south). And, no, we have not seen any evidence that the nutrients from the laterals carry beyond a couple feet from the actual laterals.

UPDATE January 2023: I have tried to ignore these plants as much as possible. I mow around them and 'glance' at them to see if they are still alive. The hubby has cleared the longer grass a few times from where I can't mow close enough. When I weed-whack around the rest of the orchard plants, I also do these plants and have successfully not cut them. This Spring they will be two (2) years old and as of my last 'glance' in the Fall of 2022, they were alive, not very big, but alive. Will they be alive in the Spring? I 'officially' do not care. (See what I did there? LOL)

Do Good Fences Make Good Neighbors? (March 27, 2018)

Do good fences make good neighbors? No. Fences are a tool. Neighbors are complex human beings. The tool does not change the nature of the human.

Laws regarding tools are important especially when the responsibility for a tool is shared by different owners. Fences are tools we use to divide areas. Most importantly, fences are traditionally used to designate where my property ends and your property begins. In such cases, who is responsible for the costs of installation and upkeep of that fence? The answer depends on the laws in your location.

As a landowner, it is imperative to understand the fence laws in your location so that you do not encroach on your neighbor and so that you can tell if your neighbor is trying to encroach upon your land. Likewise, knowledge of who is responsible for what will help you to know if your neighbor is trying to take advantage of you and, conversely, how you can avoid opening yourself up to a lawsuit.

The first thing I learned about when we decided to purchase acreage was the local fence laws. In Missouri, where our acreage is, the law states that you own and are responsible for the upkeep of the half of the fence on the right as you face it from your land. Which means your adjoining neighbor is responsible for the half on the right as they face it from their land. Of course, if you have fences that are not adjoining a neighbor, you are responsible for those fences in their entirety.

General good manners apply. If your neighbor’s half of the fence has problems that affect your crop or livestock (for example), it is wise to be courteous and contact that neighbor and discuss an equitable solution. For example, when we purchased our initial 10 acres, the neighbor to the west already had fencing on their half but there was no fencing on our half. We contacted them to say we would be installing field fencing… there was nothing they needed to do. However, some of their portion of the fence had gaps which did not affect them, because they did not have livestock. We wanted all of our acreage to be fenced so as to keep our dogs in and other dogs out. Therefore, we offered to remove the gaps at our expense. It was beneficial to us. Did we have to do that? No. We could have insisted they repair the gaps. We were new neighbors trying to establish a good rapport.

The fence to the east of our new acreage was three (3) strands of barbed wire and had been installed in its entirety by that neighbor because he had horses that he wanted to keep on his land. There was absolutely nothing wrong with that fence from his perspective. But, for us, it was not sufficient and we wanted to avoid our dogs running after his horses and roaming at large. Once again, we opted to absorb the expense of upgrading that fence because the benefit was solely ours. We discussed with the neighbor what our needs were and what his needs were. We compromised and replaced the two (2) bottom strands of barbed wire with field fencing and restrung the top strand of barbed wire a bit above the field fencing. Could we have asked him to absorb the cost for his half? Yes, we could have, but again, we were new neighbors trying to establish a good rapport.

Luckily, the fence along the south edge of the acreage, while not in perfect shape, was fine for our needs and no repairs or replacement was needed at all. The north edge of the property was along the road and, therefore, our responsibility completely.

Eventually, we purchased the house and acreage to the east of our initial acreage which meant that on the new eastern edge we had a different neighbor. The land on the other side of the east fence was in CRP (a conservation program you can learn about easily with a bit of research) without a need for fencing and the fence had been installed decades before by the owner of the property we purchased (remember, he's the one who had horses to contain). The fact that it was in CRP was one of the factors in favor of our expanding to the acreage. The fence had problems in some places and we replaced and repaired it as needed without contacting the new neighbor. There was no benefit to there even being a fence for the neighbor.

Over the years, many trees came to maturity and even grew through the wire field fence with the strand of barbed wire above it. It became a living fence. It was beautiful and wild.

January 2018

On the 2nd of January, 2018, we became aware of machinery to the east. At first we thought there was a road crew working on the gravel road and then we realized it was NOT; it was heavy duty construction equipment and the crews were demolishing the trees and brush in the CRP acreage.

In particular, there were excavators (also known as diggers) tearing out the trees on the neighbor’s side of the fence and not bothering to avoid the branches of the trees that were growing on our side of the fence. This tore many of our trees apart and some of them were uprooted entirely. Often this process damaged the fence as well.

They did not do this only to the neighbor’s half of the fence… this progressed along the entire fence line.

The hubby went to find out what was going on and I made my way to the closest excavator. Hubby found the owner overseeing the beginning of this project and spoke with him. I spoke to the crew member on the excavator. In this way we discovered that the CRP had ended December 31, 2017. That the neighbor had decided to put in a cattle operation on the land (as was his right to do so) and that meant clearing the land and, as it applied to us, the fence line.

Did it matter to the neighbor that we have livestock? That we could not move our cattle into that pasture because his crews were creating large holes in our fence? No. We had to make accommodations for HIM by rerouting the cattle through a different rotation of our other acreage. Our neighbor was not being considerate and he did not care about being considerate.

What did they do with all that wood? They made several big piles and burned it. In high winds and throughout the nights. The ash covered everything and we watched closely to be sure the fires did not cross to our property.

What could we do? Nothing. Nothing except express our right to have the trees on our land not destroyed. Nothing except insist that the crews NOT damage our half of the fence.

I cannot express to you how angry I was that no consideration had been given to us, no notice that this was going to happen, no thought was being given to the future devastation that tearing limbs from mature trees can cause. We are likely to find many of those trees on our side of the fence dying over the next few years.

Promises were made that the crew would take care. Pie crust promises: easily made, easily broken. We are not fools. The hubby took photos and videos of both sides of the fence line every day. We would have proof if we needed to pursue this in the courts.

The hubby kept in contact with the neighbor. What kind of fence would he be using on his half? Would he be replacing the field fencing that was ripped out? The neighbor was surprised that we would ask that. He wanted to put in three (3) strands of barbed wire. The cheapest fencing possible. The hubby made good reasoning why it was to the neighbor’s benefit to replace the fence he ripped out with the same type: field fencing. Primarily, this would keep our dogs from being able to get through the fence and stop them from harassing his cattle. The neighbor grudgingly agreed.

One morning the hubby had a call from the neighbor to say that he was going to have the crew remove the brush so they could easily install the new fence. Soon after this a bulldozer came across the fence onto our land and tore out a mature Osage Orange tree – roots and all. It turns out that the neighbor’s idea of “brush” includes anything he doesn’t like. The hubby was out the door immediately and stopped the dozer operator from trespassing further. He then got a hold of the neighbor and expressed his displeasure. The neighbor agreed to stop the crews from trespassing, that they would not take out any trees that we wanted left in place on our land. The hubby told the neighbor he would tag each tree with “caution tape”.

We were away for a few days (to attend my Dad’s funeral in Nebraska) and came back on February 3rd to discover that the crews DID leave the marked trees alone but used one of those shredders for clearing brush and small trees along the entire fence line. Damaging MORE limbs on our trees and several places on OUR half of the fence including some that the hubby had already repaired from the damage the neighbor's crew had created initially.

It was time to talk to a lawyer. I called the firm that I used to set up the farm as an LLC and told them everything that you have just read. I did not say who our neighbor is but the lawyer asked if I knew who they are and so I told him. Yes, the lawyer was very familiar with our neighbor and was upfront about how he had not only sued them on behalf of multiple clients, he had also worked with the neighbor on projects when both were employed by a local municipality.

My lawyer was amazed that the hubby had been able to speak directly to our neighbor, several times. He thought the best course of action would be for the hubby to continue to talk with the neighbor to resolve things without resorting to legal proceedings, if possible. It was entirely up to us, of course. He told me that the trespass was grounds for legal action and that specifically trespass with damage to mature trees is further grounds. He asked if we had before and after photos to prove the number of trees that had been damaged. (Which explains why we were not notified ahead of time that the neighbor would be clearing the fence line… we did not have before pictures from his side of the fence.) He asked if we had access to forestry experts who could provide values for the trees that were destroyed and/or damaged OR would be willing to pay for someone to look into that. He asked these questions to help us determine if the costs of going to court would outweigh any possible settlement.

I told the lawyer that we would be happy if the damage would simply stop. He reaffirmed his opinion that the hubby continuing to talk with the neighbor offered the best outcome in that case; and, if it did not, we could call him back to start proceedings. I thanked him, told him I appreciated his time and would be happy to compensate him for the time and advice. He did not think that necessary at this time.

Another call to the neighbor. Oh, no, he said, he was not aware of the new damage. He assured us that there would be no further clearing of the fence line. And as of this date (March 27, 2018), there has been no further activity.

Is the saga over? I certainly hope so.

UPDATE (August 17, 2018)

A couple of weeks ago, a crew came back with a "bobcat". I happened to be out checking the bushes/trees in the orchard to see if the drought had damaged them. So I was very close at hand when the bobcat started pushing one of our autumn olive bushes further into our property (crossing the property line). I approached the crew and they stopped so they could hear me. I asked them what they thought they were doing and was told they were clearing the brush along the fence line in order to put in the new fence. I told them their idea of brush was not the same as my idea of brush and that they were NOT allowed to trespass on our land to do their job. I then asked what kind of fence they were installing and was told barbed wire. I told them that was not what the owner of the land had agreed to with us. He told me I would have to take that up with the land owner. I told him I would call him immediately and went to get the hubby.

By the time the hubby and I got back (the hubby wanted to talk with the crew before he made the call and I brought my camera to document things), the crew had packed up and were heading out. I had to water our orchard (which takes several hours) and therefore knew that the crew did not return that day. The hubby contacted the neighbor and was assured that he would take care of it.

The next week the crew came back and I headed out with my camera to document their activity. I spoke with the fellow at the fence line and he confirmed that there would be no further "brush clearing"... that they WOULD be using field fencing topped by a strand of barbed wire ... that it would not be "pretty" but would keep the cows in (or out as the case may be).

The process was actually fascinating. They used the bobcat to "pound" in the t-posts for the fence. The t-posts were loaded into the "bucket" of the bobcat and the man on foot unloaded one, located where he wanted it and in the appropriate direction, and put a length of tubing over it which was the length they wanted the t-post to be above ground level. The bucket was then lowered over the t-post which was slowly pushed into the earth until the tube was at ground level. The man then removed the tube and did the same at the next t-post location. I complimented him on the process and he claimed it was his idea. I have no way of knowing if he was telling the truth. But it is a good way to install a whole bunch of t-posts efficiently. Occasionally, the t-post would hit a root and then it was more difficult and the bucket was used as a hammer (which is how I have seen it done elsewhere).

Once all the t-posts were in place (yes, I did take pictures), the crew were done for the day. I asked the man on the ground when they would be putting in the field fence and he thought it would be soon.

A few days later, I was mowing along that fence line and was surprised to see the fence was installed. It turns out they used the existing field fence (with some new pieces where patching was required) and a new strand of barbed wire above it. They even strung plain wire from the field fence to the barbed wire regularly to help keep the field fence stretched upward. Now, considering that most of that existing field fence had been overgrown at ground level, this makes a great deal of sense. No sense tearing it out when it can be repaired and remain in place. And in spite of the fellow saying it "wouldn't be pretty", I thought it looked fine.

Do you think the owner will appreciate that we actually SAVED him money? Instead of paying for three (3) strands of barbed wire OR new field fencing, his crew was able to use what was there and only install one (1) strand of barbed wire. I doubt it but it would be nice to think so.

Hopefully, there will be no problems when they end up putting cattle on that land. Considering how slowly they are working to get the land ready, I would not be surprised if we don't see them this year.

And thus ends (fingers crossed) this fence line saga.

Pokeweed vs. Elderberry (August 2016)

My parents used to make "balloon wine" (you can look that up if you aren't familiar with it -- I'm not going into wine making at this time) from a wide variety of sources; most of which were free to us. You know... from friends with bushes or trees they didn't want to harvest themselves or weeds that grow in ditches... that kind of free. So I had early lessons in identifying edible vs. poisonous fruit plants/weeds.

Many, many years later, a friend pointed to a plant growing in her front yard saying how excited she was that this volunteer elderberry had decided to grow there. Um, sorry to tell you, but that is NOT elderberry... that is pokeweed. Oh, no, she said, another friend had definitely identified it as elderberry. So, long story short, not much later I met this friend and she "knew" the plant that is actually pokeweed as elderberry and her mom used to make jam out of those berries. Wow, I said, if you survived pokeweed berry jam, nothing is going to kill you! (It's entirely possible that the woman couldn't tell the difference and her mom could and what she served as elderberry jam WAS, in fact, elderberry jam. We will never know for sure.)

And now, because of that interaction, I allow some pokeweed to grow in close proximity to my elderberry plants SPECIFICALLY so I can say: "See this? It's Elderberries. See that? It's Pokeweed. Elderberries are good for you and Pokeweed berries are poisonous."

Since not everyone can come to the farm to see the difference, I am including this batch of photos so you can see for yourself. By the way, both plants are poisonous to eat (from different toxins) and some people are sensitive to pokeweed the way people are sensitive to poison ivy.

Remember, both have deep purple berries and the stems get more red as they ripen... so get to know the differences!

elderberries 1


Sambucus canadensis is the variety that I have on the farm.

This is elderberries ready to be harvested.

The big clusters of tiny berries are so heavy that they pull the stalk over.

The berries are deep purple and shiny.

elderberries 2


REALLY close up of fully ripe berries. See how they are clusters -- that is an important identifying clue.

It is important to note that while the flowers and RIPE berries are edible, the rest of the plant is poisonous.

elderberries 3


Here you can see several bushes.

There can be both ripe and green berries on a single branch.

And just because one bush is ripe, doesn't mean the one next to it will be ripe.

Some links you may find helpful:

pokeweed 2


These are mature, up to 8 foot tall, pokeweed plants (phytolacca americana).

The berries grow along a single stem and look VERY different from the clusters of elderberries.

As the plants mature, the stems get more and more red.

pokeweed 4


Every part of the pokeweed is poisonous.

Here are ripe berries. They are MUCH bigger than elderberries.

pokeweed 1


You will find information about eating the leaves and stems... this is true, but only VERY young plants before you see any red in the stems. And even then, the plant is boiled (and the water disposed of between) at least twice before used in a recipe.

There are excellent reasons to live and let live in regard to pokeweed especially if you are into dye making.

Removing them is tricky. Since they die back to the root every year, I just cut them out in the spring before they get big. I don't use poisons, so I depend on vigilance on my part. If the root doesn't receive nutrition from leaves, it will (eventually) die.

pokeweed 3


I think the plants are beautiful. Birds are not affected by the poison and the bare plant is a great place for them to perch during the winter.

I came across this excellent link that you may find informative:

Hunters and My Livestock (March 23, 2016)

I have avoided writing about hunting on this website. My personal opinion about hunting is that, when done with consideration by knowledgeable persons, it is beneficial. I suppose I should clarify what I mean...

To me "consideration" means:

  1. the hunt is a means to provide food for the hunter,
  2. the prey is not endangered and its numbers may, in fact, be too large for that area and in need of culling,
  3. the location allows for the hunt to take place without danger to anything else (property, animals, people).

What I mean by "knowledgeable persons" is those who have been instructed:

  1. in the proper use of their equipment,
  2. how to hunt their given prey,
  3. most importantly, in an understanding and practice of safety at all times.

I have no intention of ranting about gun control, for or against. My opinion is that for hunting (as in any endeavor), one should use the appropriate tool that does the job with utmost efficiency and the least adverse effects.

Why I am bringing up hunting now.

My little 20 acres of land are at the east end of a quarter section that was divided into several 5 and 10 acre lots, which is to say that all the land between mine and the road on the west have houses on them. The land to the east of mine has been in CRP (which is a conservation program) since the hubby and I purchased the original 10 acre lot I now refer to as PlayHaven West. I'll call the land to the east "the CRP" for the purposes of this writing.

I have not met the owner of the CRP, but I have met the very nice people who are living in the next house beyond the CRP and they are related to the owner.

I knew that the owner allowed people to hunt on the CRP. Perhaps you will have read the story a couple of years ago about how there was a shooting party that scared my cattle causing me to change how I was opening their grass allotments during that time. At the time, I had expressed to everyone BUT the owner and neighbor how nice it would have been to be told ahead of time so the sound of multiple gun fire would not have caught us all off guard. In hindsight, I really SHOULD have contacted the owner. The trouble was I was angry and it is not smart for me to do anything while I am angry. Then, when I was no longer angry, I had no idea how to address the subject without sounding like a horrible neighbor especially since they stayed away from the fence line.

Since then, we occasionally hear gunshots and dogs barking, but it is distant and doesn't bother anyone (well, it always startles me). But, on February 26th I was in my office and heard several very loud reports that made me jump and look out the window to see one of the steers buck and take off at top speed away from the cattle's overwinter hay setup toward the pond (east to west) and even Fernie the bull who was lying by the pond jumped up. I looked in the direction of the hay and saw two (2) hunters walking toward my fence. Luckily, the rest of the cattle were eating grass at the south end of the pasture.

I raced downstairs, threw on a coat and my boots and headed outside where I yelled as loudly as I could to attract the hunters attention who were standing just on the other side of the fence by the hay looking (as it appeared to me) at the hay. They started walking away so I went as fast as my chubby little legs could carry me to intercept them. This time when I yelled (and I will admit that my language would have made many people blush) one of them turned around and with his dog on a tight leash headed back in my direction.

At my vulgar prompting, he told me they were hunting birds and that they had shot at one IN MY TREE LINE but, he assured me, they decided not to trespass to retrieve the bird. I told him the bird is not what concerns me, that it is my livestock that concerns me. That by firing into my tree line they could cause harm to my livestock through spooking them or even hitting them. I did not hold back and 'tore them new ones' as the saying goes. You don't want to be the verbal target of my anger.

"We have permission to hunt here" they whined. The second hunter had moved closer to support his partner. Perhaps so, but NOT to shoot into my field! They could not even tell me the name of the owner, all they knew was that the man who stocks the CRP with game birds gave them permission to hunt those birds. I told them I would be contacting the CRP owner and they said they were done hunting along my fenceline. (FYI - I never did see the bird they supposedly shot.)

My first course of action was to find out the legality of hunting on a CRP, especially when it is being stocked and hunted as a business venture. I needed to know where I stood legally so as not to make a complete fool of myself. I found conflicting information on-line in that the rules are different from one state to another. I decided to call the Farm Service Agency of the USDA in Higginsville and spoke with a very nice man. Still being in a state of agitation, and not wanting to take it out on him, I apologized up front for any unpleasant attitude on my part. I told him the story and he informed me (while commiserating with me) that yes, it is legal to hunt on a CRP in Missouri; even with the man stocking game birds on the land precisely for that purpose. We chatted for a time and he calmed me down. He agreed that I needed to tell the land owner because they would want to know that idiots were hunting on their land. After all, any damages they might cause would be the land owner's responsibility.

It took a few phone calls, but I finally spoke to the lovely woman who owns the land with her husband. I recounted the story I just told you admitting my vulgarity and anger freely. She appreciated that I called and was not happy to hear that there were idiots hunting on the land even if they did have permission. The responsibility for permission fell to the man who was stocking the CRP with game birds so she did not who these particular people were. She suggested I look for their vehicle to help in the determination, but by the time I was talking with her, they had left or had parked somewhere I could not see.

She understood my concern about how the birdshot could affect my cattle. Let me tell you my concerns as I told her.

  • The sound of a distant gunshot does not startle the cattle, even the loud fireworks of our neighbor rarely startle the cattle; but a close up gunshot that sends the cattle running means panic. Panic means not looking where they are running and a gopher hole can mean a broken leg and an animal that has to be killed because of it.
  • A not so obvious concern is birdshot might penentrate the hide of a cow and while not killing it outright can fester and cause infection that could kill the animal some time later without apparent reason.
  • An even less obvious concern would be for the penetrating birdshot to not eventually kill the animal, but cause the meat to not pass inspection when processed.

So while my first concern is for my animal because I don't want any harm to befall them, my concern as a business person is the possible monetary loss. And since my steers belong to the people who own Cowpooling shares, it's not just me that the loss affects.

The lovely woman was very nice to me. Her family also raises cattle and she truly understands my predicament (or possible predicament, I should say). She apologized and promised to follow up on this with the game bird provider.

The following day, I had a visit from the game bird provider/hunt manager. He had heard from both the lovely lady and her relative (my neighbor) about the idiot hunters and came over to introduce himself and express his apologies. I found him to be very pleasant and while some of that could be attributed to trying to make me happy, we found we have similar attitudes on things such as energy efficiency, sustainable building, and the headache that is raising baby birds. Plus we have some mutual friends.

He assured me he would speak with the idiot hunters and make sure they are clear about the (excuse me if I express this inaccurately) caliber of their shot (the noise of the gunshot lead him to believe they were using shot that travels further than he allows), the area along the fence where they are NOT allowed to hunt, and not to fire into the fence/tree line. Basically, he will educate them.

He also offered me a 'free hunt' next year. As I understand it, that means he would donate the funds collected from a day when a group of people participating in a shooting party such as I described from a few years ago pay an amount per person (or was it per bird retrieved?) to PlayHaven Farm LLC. He said that he has raised as much as several thousand dollars at such an event. I did not give him an answer yet. I suppose I should jump at that... but I have reservations which are wholly my own issue relating to the points I made about hunting at the beginning of the article. Namely, they are game birds raised in captivity and released for the sole purpose of being shot. But is that any worse than my raising meatbirds? I think so. My meat chickens didn't have the panic of being hunted.

Oh, by the way, the hubby and I have seen a couple of game birds on the farm lately. It turns out they are probably from the game bird providers stock that escaped being shot. The picture is of one such lucky lady: a chukar. She made her way to our deck and it was lovely to see her fly away after I took the photos. Oddly, she came back later in the day. I haven't seen her since.

female chukar

Witch-Hazel (August 2016)

There is an area on the farm near the road where the previou owners decided to create a pond. They didn't do a very good job... it leaks. So the best you can say about this area is that it makes a good rain garden. They had planted forsythia on the dam (along the road) and day lillies at the south end (farthest from the road/dam) in addition to a couple of red bud trees.

I opted to turn the area into a rain garden for wildlife and leave it as uncultivated as possible.

Mother Nature planted wild blackberries among the daylillies and lots and lots of poison ivy. She also planted cat tails and some other water loving ground covers that I haven't identified yet.

I planted some cottonwood saplings, false indigo and witch-hazel bushes. The bushes act as the outer boundary on the east and west. South of the day lillies/red bud trees, I planted pawpaw trees and elderberries.


I chose witch-hazel bushes because I use the astringent made from them and thought it would be nice to (someday) be able to make my own.

Also, these bushes bloom during the winter. Here are some of the flowers in February of 2016.

If the bees happen to be able to get out of their hives in February, there is pollen because of these plants!



I wasn't really expecting to see seed pods, but here they are!

From what I can find on-line, the seeds are edible (supposed to be similar to pistachio).

They are harvested just before the pods are set to burst open.

I'll keep an eye on them, see what I can harvest and when.

Crossing fingers and toes!


Hamamelis vernalis is the species on my farm.

The plants themselves are much bigger than I had envisioned when I bought the seedlings. And they are really pretty!

Not a lot of information on the species I have, but here is one link:

Compost Hay (May 2016)

These photos and the actual spreading they depict happened in late March or early April (should have written it down, LOL).

As you may already know, this winter I purchased big, round, bales of hay for the cattle and we gave them access to it in an alley setup. (Click here to see pictures and read about that.)

Regardless of how you provide hay during the winter, you end up with uneaten hay that has been "supplemented" by the cattle because they decide they don't want to eat it and then walk and defecate on it. I will admit that the small, square bales left less waste than we had this winter. BUT! all that lovely composting hay will be lovely to use to prepare new areas for planting, fill in holes in the pastures and the rest will go into the ditch to reduce erosion.



The hubby had already gotten a load on the trailer before I made my way out to direct where it goes.

From here it just looks like a pile of hay, but it is ever so much more than that!


First stop: under the ShelterLogic Garage structure. Since we didn't have chickens this winter (see all the unused equipment being store in the overwinter field), it is easy to access this spot.

Between the chickens and storing one of the trailers under this structure, the ground is devoid of turf and last summer the weeds were thick in there.

It took two (2) loads to cover the area and while there will be weeds and grass etc growing through some of it, the compost hay will be a great first amendment so I can turn this into a shade structure for plants in 2017.

I have lots of paper seed bags to anchor over the compost hay.


Here it is all covered with compost hay.

Eventually, I will be applying the compost hay to the places where the chicken equipment has been.

My plan is to make raised beds throughout this area.


It is quite a job, removing the soiled hay from the cattle overwinter area. There is at least one reason that lightweight hay 'pitchforks' are made with curved tines; it help keep them from digging into the ground when sliding the fork through the compressed hay.

We definitely need to get at least one more pitchfork.

Let's see, this is two (2) trailer loads removed.


Another load removed.

I'll be spreading seed in this area to aid in it's recovery.


Another angle of the area.

We figure the trampled compost hay is between 6 inches (closes to the grass) and 2-feet thick (right next to the remaining hay bales).


As I recall, this was five (5) loads removed. Probably about the same remaining at this point.

We removed all the wire and t-posts as the last chore on this day.

Moving hay is hard work! Moving compost hay is heavier work!

It's definitely going to take us longer than I anticipated to get it all moved out to the pasture and ditch.

We should have some lovely worm population in this area.

Blackberry Lines (March 2016)

Once you've experienced trying to harvest blackberries from native, thorn-ridden plants; you come to realize that management of the canes is in your best interest.

I attended a class on brambles and decided to change to a recommended management technique. The hubby came on board last year (Spring 2015) and we moved the plants we wanted to keep and mowed down the others. The first group of photos are from 2015.


Originally, the blackberry plants were a walking mowers width (about 2 feet) away from the fence you can see to the left of the new posts and lines.

After putting in the posts and lines, we transplanted canes from the preferred plants centered on the posts every few feet along the length between T posts.


A close up of the west end of the structure.

The canes will get heavy with blackberries and it will be unevenly spaced, so we used the plastic covered wire that used to be the fence for the horses to tie the canes to.

The T post has U-nails at each end to guide the wire.

The wire is attached to a spring adjustable tether so that the wire can be tightened or loosened as needed.

There is another post with a cross piece to keep the T posts in place (not sag toward the plants due to the tension of the wire).

bbstruct5 The east end, same set up as the west.
bbstruct6 Transplanted canes, they surprisingly produced a few berries.
bbstruct7 These transplanted canes were not tied to the wire this year.

New plants from roots.

Since blackberries grow in the first year and bloom/fruit the second year, these are the canes that will get tied to the line and produce next time.


And here it is Spring 2016. The old, dead canes are removed.

The 2nd year canes are tied to one side and will continue growing and produce blossoms and fruit.

New canes will grow untied.


It's much easier to see how the canes are leaned to one side and tied to the line in this image.

The whole reason for this is management. After these canes fruit, they will die.

Come winter when it's time to tie the new canes to the other side, it will be easy to tell which ones are old. The old canes tied to the wire are cut at ground level and removed.

All that are left are the new canes and they are leaned to the other side and tied off.

Some people tie the young canes to the other side as they grow. Same results, different process.

The goal is that the canes have plenty of light and space to produce lots of flavorful berries. AND that it is easy to harvest those berries. AND that it is easy to remove the dead thorn covered canes.

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