We have lots of issues to think about as we transition from winter to spring. Mowing, tilling, planting, the weather and maintenance have all been on our minds since February!
Ground conditions are one of our main issues during all of the seasons but in early spring we are wanting to work on getting pen cover in shape for the game birds we place in early May. If the ground is too soft or wet it makes both mowing and tilling difficult.
Typically, we mow down the previous year’s cover while the ground is still frozen in February or March. Then when the weather dries out, we till 1/3 to 1/2 of the pens completely. These will then be planted, generally, with corn, for cover.
We rotate which pens get tilled and planted from one year to another for a few reasons:
1. If we tilled all pens there would not be sufficient cover for the first birds that come out; just not enough time for corn to germinate and get tall enough. So, the pens that are not tilled come up in lambs quarter. This is an early season weed that works well as cover for early birds.
2. It reduces cost in both labor and materials by not having to plant every pen every year.
3. It helps with time constraints to get pens ready, in a narrow window, that is weather dependent.
We have a few more important jobs to do as we transition into summer:
1. All of the waterers and feeders are removed, washed and disinfected before being returned to the pens.
2. The maintenance crew takes care of grounds upkeep. This includes mowing of the grounds, taking care of the flower beds, and up-keeping the buildings. They also keep the grounds around our buildings mowed during the growing season.
3. Every year there is minor pen maintenance done. This includes patching small holes in the net, tightening or replacing support cables, replacing broken prop posts attached to cables, patching holes in the wire, and picking up any debris in and around pens.
A major project we finished this spring was tearing down and rebuilding half of our French Partridge pens. They were 30+ years old and we wanted to change the design to maximize ground area and better facilitate our current shipping system.
The framework was completed by the wood shop crew and manager, Brian Check. A couple of MacFarlane’s seasonal workers placed the nets to finish the pens. It is projected that we will rebuild the other half of the French Partridge pens next winter/spring but that won't be finalized until after we get through the raising and shipping of the birds this year.
We started our spring projects in Feb/March and now we are looking forward to summer, with hopes that the weather will be moderate and kind to our birds and our workers!