Feed Me Farms

Shutterbug: Learning to Fly

A photo of SandyOne of my favorite annual events is the return of our swallows each year.

They have made their nests on our porch for years. There is a nest in each corner of our wrap-around front porch, they have now spread to the back porch and the tractor barn as well.

Swallows in the nest

Swallow on the windchimesMy favorite nest is the one right by our front entrance, the generations of swallows who have filled it are not afraid of us and the babies like to watch our comings and goings. As they begin to fly, they like to swing on our wind chimes. This year we have noticed that the butterflies like to chase the little swallows as they dip and dive through the air. I love their chatter outside our windows and their patterned flights over all the pastures and barns.

The swallows stay all Summer helping with insect control and then, just as they appear overnight, they disappear one morning. We will wake up and they are gone and I'm sad for a day or two, but I know in my heart that they will make their way back again next year. Swallows will always be welcomed guests here at Feed me Farms. In fact, we will always keep the porch light on for them.

Calf Treatment: Saving Lucky La Moo

A photo of Sandy Bates BellAfter caring calf treatment, Lucky La Moo has survived her health crisis and is back to her sweet self. It started almost exactly a month ago, we noticed late one afternoon she was straining while trying to defecate. By that evening a part of her rectum was hanging out. My cowboy was calm, separated her from the herd of misfits and valiantly disinfected her backside area and placed it back in. I could barely sleep that night because I knew there was an underlying condition causing this and that she was going to have a rough time surviving it. By the next morning, she had a prolapsed rectum. It was a horrible sight. I thought she was going to die.

Sandy and Lucky La Moo the calf

Our vet made a barn call and said he had seen this over a hundred times. He even said it was common after weaning (and we had weaned her just a few weeks before). We have weaned four others and never had anything like this happen, but there is always a first for everything. Instead of feeding her for almost 4 1/2 to 5 months, I weaned her at 3 months according to a very famous bovine care book. Another farm lesson learned, don’t always listen to the experts and follow your instincts sometimes.

The vet gave her an epidural (to stop further straining), an antibiotic injection and then corrected the condition with minor surgery and stitches. Her back legs were paralyzed for almost 12 hours. It would be touch and go for the next few weeks while her intestinal illness waged a bacterial war inside her. He told us not to get our hopes up too high.

Sandy bottle feeds Lucky the calf

Lucky’s backside got better but she was dull and seemed to be getting weaker. We fed her milk replacer, scour ease and electrolyte gel but she was just not getting better. We called the vet after two weeks and had him come back out again. He was surprised that she was still alive. He said we must be doing something right as many calves do not survive the intestinal illness and infection. He gave her another round of antibiotics and this really seemed to help her fight off the internal infection.

Cowboy ropes Nandi the bull calf

We did not give up on her either. We made sure that she drank large two bottles of milk replacer mixed with the electrolyte supplement, and that seemed to help keep her energy up. We had her segregated from the rest of her calf friends and her mom at first, but we decided it would be better for her to re-join the herd. We would just have to make the pasture trek to bottle feed every day. My cowboy had to rope Nandi the little bull calf that shares the pasture with her, otherwise he would fight for the bottle. Lucky was finally feeling so much better on Easter that she even came up to watch my Godson’s Easter egg hunt.

Cattle watch Easter egg hunt

Our calf box that we keep stocked with essentials came in handy through this crisis. I highly recommend having an emergency box stocked with powdered colostrum, milk replacer, scour ease and electrolyte gel. I also recommend having wound cleanser, clear iodine, medicine droppers, clean bottles and latex gloves handy. We replenish it every time we make a trip to the tractor supply and feed store. Emergencies tend to happen when everything is closed, and a few hours can mean life or death.

Lucky’s voracious appetite is back, and she is up to her funny antics in the pasture. She has really lived up to her name. We are SO happy to have you back Lucky La Moo! You really are one lucky little calf.

Lessons Learned, and Still Learning


A photo of Sandy Bates BellMother Nature fooled us last year. You know the saying, "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature," from those old margarine commercials? Well, we're turning the tables on her this year! As I sit outside on my laptop enjoying this lovely Spring afternoon, my cowboy/artist now turned farmer sits on top of his beloved tractor carefully tilling the many black soil rows that he is designing along the old terraces used by his ancestors.


Our Guineas happily following along behind him nabbing each and every tasty bug that surfaces. But lest we forget, it was only a few days ago (the first day of Spring) that we had a freak snowstorm that put a damper on all those poor gardeners who were so eager to play in the dirt a couple of weeks ago. All those poor little pansies and cucumber vines that went in too soon, may have been all for not. We learned our lesson the hard way.


One of our dear neighbors and best friends passed away earlier this year, and we are so saddened by his loss. He was a life long farmer/rancher and taught several generations of farmers around here how to grow and prosper off this land. Last year we were trying our hand at our first large scale vegetable garden, and we were so eager that we planted at the beginning of March because the weather had been so beautiful. Our old friend found out that we had already seeded the garden and stopped by our place to tell us that we should have waited till after Easter here in Central North Texas. To soften the news, he brought us a few wonderful vegetables out of his Winter garden. Oh was he right! A few weeks after our plantings were popping up everywhere, a late March freeze came and killed about 30 percent of our vegetable garden. Hard lesson learned. If only we had sought his wisdom out BEFORE planting, but again lessons learned.


To curb our hastiness this year, we entertained ourselves over the Winter by pouring over colorful seed catalogs (Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Landreths and a few others) and power reading a few good books (Good Bug, Bad Bug, Seed to Seed, Carrots Love Tomatoes, The Have More Plan). Last year we waited until February to order seeds and found that many of the varieties of heirlooms we wanted were sold out. Lessons learned. This year we started our ordering in January and even then, missed out on a few things we wanted. Another valuable learning experience.


That's the great thing about gardening and farming, there is a constant learning curve. Every planting season and harvest teaches us a new technique or trick. This year we are trying a new technique that our local Sheriff imparted to us. He learned it from his neighbor who learned it from the Japanese when he was a POW in a Japanese work camp. When he heard we were getting into heirloom vegetables, the sheriff patiently drew out a diagram of tomato cages fed by a compost tea IV contraption. Ironic that something learned from the enemy during the war would bring several generations of joy and great harvests to him and his neighbors, and now he was passing his knowledge on to us. That's really what I love most about farming. It breaks down age, ethnic and economic barriers. I have seen a room full of gardeners who would otherwise have nothing to talk about because of their different lifestyles, but you get them talking about their garden secrets and you can't get them to stop.

I have noticed something else about farmers and gardeners. There is a bit of gambler in all of us. Wometimes it feels like the odds are stacked against us – battling weather, natural disasters, wind, heat, cold and bugs. But once we bite into our first tomato or saute up some fresh greens, we know that our gamble has paid off, hitting the gourmet jackpot.


So, as we watch the weather report for tomorrow, we find out that there is more cold and rain on the way. Easter is only a week away, and the tangy taste of a Cherokee Purple tomato is yet a few months from consumption. But patience is a virtue, and that, too, is a lesson well learned out here on the farm.

Happy planting, everyone (but not till after Easter)! This years planting is dedicated to Don Tolar, a thick neck Czech who could grow anything. We will miss you and your wisdom Don. Wise lessons learned.

Shutterbug: Fun With Double Yolks

A photo of Sandy Bates BellNo boring egg sandwiches around here. This is our newest quick farm lunch favorite. We have named it “The Sleestak” for obvious reasons, instead of the eggs sizzling, they just hiss! Land of the Lost was one of my top 5 childhood television shows (right up there with H.R. Puff'N'Stuff, Lidsville and the Banana Splits). Hhhmmmm banana splits ... we need to plant some banana trees!

A special egg sandwich

Sleestak Sandwich: Good crusty bread like Ciabatta, slightly toasted with a little butter and melted shredded sharp cheddar topped with heirloom tomatoes, avocado, fried Pancetta and egg. HHmmmmmmmm! Hisssssssssssssssssss!

Texas Snow Envy

A photo of Sandy Bates BellEven though we had high hopes for a winter garden this year, our dream came to a tragically beautiful end a few days ago. We had been keeping our eyes on the Dallas news stations as snow began to fall, and fall ... and fall. I had to admit that when the weatherman said some areas were going to receive up to a foot, I actually felt snow envy.

Scarecrow in snow

We are about an hour and 20 minutes southeast of the Dallas area. As the Dallas/Ft. Worth area was becoming a Currier & Ives postcard, we were becoming an ice-cold rainy mess. I cursed the weather report and told my cowboy artist that I would gladly trade this horrible, muddy ice cold rain for a few inches of snow. The “jazz hands” weatherman (we named him that long ago because of his absurdly exaggerated hand movements and overly excitable personality) kept pointing out the fact that the big snow event was going to miss our area and head further northeast.

Guinea fowl in snow

No snow day for us, or so we thought. Oh, a few big flakes and some ice pellets hit our metal roof throughout the evening, but we were convinced it would all be gone by morning. The last radar report before bed showed the snow line well above our area and heading off where it was supposed to go. 

Head stone in snow

I woke up early the next morning and listened to the silence, no early morning traffic along the road, no bellowing from cattle, not even our roosters were crowing their morning hello to the day. I jumped out of bed and looked across the frozen landscape and was sure that I had woken possibly back East, not East Texas. Our rain gauge was no longer measuring rain, it was completely covered by SNOW!!

Rain gauge in snow

Our winter challenged garden was now officially declared a disaster area, but instead of cursing Mother Nature – we embraced it, savoring a little slice of winter wonderland, if only for a day or two. We spent the morning enjoying the quiet whiteness, giving extra feed to the animals, walking through my cowboy’s family cemetery and enjoying this peacefulness that only a snow blanketed landscape can provide. It was a magical day.

Chickens in snow

This Tuesday they are forecasting another snow storm for northeast Texas. Surprise me Mother Nature! Even though it causes disruption of the farm routine and a little more work later, I’m secretly keeping my fingers crossed that we get another Currier & Ives moment.

Bottle fed calf in snow

An old piece of machinery with a blanket of white snow

Brahman cattle in snow

The Flaming Lips Inspire Feed Me Farms (10 for 2010)

How can a man (Wayne Coyne) and a band (The Flaming Lips) inspire us here at Feed Me Farms? It all began on New Year’s Eve. We decided to take a well earned break from the farm and drive through snow and sleet to see The Flaming Lips play their hometown of Oklahoma City on this celebratory evening.

New Year's Eve in Oklahoma City

As soon as we hit the city limits, we began to see the positive influence that this band has had on their hometown. Instead of heading for the bright lights and big time status of living in L.A., New York or any other glamorous urban setting, they have chosen to stay in Oklahoma and help their States tourism and economy. And what a great job they’ve done. Wayne and his band mates have turned the ordinary into extraordinary. If more people did this, the world would be a much better place to live. No matter where in the world that might be, from small rural farms to big urban sprawl.

I picked up a local paper in the lobby of our hotel upon check-in and to my delight found an article called “10 for 2010.” To my surprise and delight, the first person listed was Wayne Coyne and his 10 for 2010:

The Flaming Lips in concert

1. To see U.F.O.s come down and enlighten all humans
2. To see all humans be kind to animals
3. To see religious fanatics disappear
4. To see the Pentagon levitate
5. To see Global Warming stop
6. To see marijuana de-criminalized
7. To see humans give love instead of taking it
8. To watch the Oklahoma (or in our case ,Texas) sunset more often
9. To sleep late
10. To accept things we cannot control

Enjoying the New Year in Oklahoma City

I was immediately drawn to Wayne’s wonderful philosophy and decided, right then and there, what my new year resolutions would be. I would adopt his and add 10 for 2010 of my own:

1. To live every day with no regrets and fill our life with art, music, entertainment and laughter
2. To think less of what I want and need
3. To think more about what I have and can do with it
4. To savor the smell of fresh hay, freshly turned dirt and green pastures
5. To savor the joy in finding a hidden egg or newborn farm animal on any given day
6. To really love those around me – be it family, friend or animal
7. To make things grow so that I can feed the minds, bodies and souls of those around me
8. To enjoy the simple pleasures of fresh food, a good bottle of wine and the time spent preparing it with the one I love
9. To embrace middle age and what it really means to be happy with yourself
10. To bloom where you’re planted!

Sunset with wine bottles

So as we begin a new year here at the farm, these 10 + 10 will play a role in our philosophy here. It may not be the most glamorous of lives, and it’s not what I ever dreamed of when growing up, but it is where I’ve landed, and I really love it. I have come to realize that life is what you make of it, not what others make for you. I want to find the extraordinary everyday in the ordinary everyday.

Thanks Wayne!

Trees and roads and loveliness

Do Cows Know It’s Christmas?

A photo of Sandy Bates BellOur cows must not know it’s Christmas, or else they would have not behaved so badly these past few weeks! It all started innocently enough ... my cowboy and his business partners (mom and sister) decided it was time to move the herd from the farm where we live, to the wide open spaces of the Antioch property. In anticipation, all the border fencing had been repaired except for an area that was considered swamp and flooded. There was fence back there, it’s just that a normal human being would have trouble getting to it, so the assumption was ... so would the darn cows.

Lucky-La-Moo our newest bottle fed calf.

The night before the herd was to be worked (branded and ear tagged) and moved, we were able to trick most of them with sacks of treats and corral them into the barn. This would make it much easier once our hired cowboys (former NFL football players) would arrive the next morning. Brahmans are good cattle till they think someone is about to corral them, they become as agile as gazelles and nothing keeps them in. BUT, so far so good that is, until the other cowboys arrived.

Lucky the Brahman calf and Sandy Bates Bell.

We had a plan, or so we thought. The bottle fed babies were going to stay with us at the farm. The young bulls were on the way to the sale barn, and the calves that needed weaning would stay on the farm a few more weeks but then join their mommas at Antioch along with our breeding bulls. Seemed easy enough ...

Not so, my cowboy’s sister all of a sudden gets sentimental and does not want some of her registered ones to go to the other property for fear of theft. They get a reprieve and get to stay in the back pastures. So, now we are splitting the herd in half and only some of them will be placed at Antioch.

We switch gears and concentrate on working them, separating them and hauling them. By the time it was all over, one large bull had jumped a 6 foot corral fence, and some of the younger ones decided to skip the gazelle move and just run right through it. Keep in mind it’s made of foot thick posts and heavy gauge wire. They also managed to tear off two gates and pretty much trash the 35-year-old barn.

Guinneas surveying the damaged corral

A couple of happy cows that were moved to our Antioch property.To add insult to injury, the herd that was taken to Antioch managed to find the only bad place in the fencing (way back in the flooded swamp) and make a clean break for it. Half of them came back on their own but the other half are now happily residing with one of my cowboy’s cousin’s cows in their pasture that backs up to Antioch.

The half that came back on their own are happy as can be roaming around Antioch with two big lakes and many tanks, lots of hay that was baled during the summer and still some coastal grass to munch on until real Winter hits. So you might say, they got their Christmas gift.

The half that took off and did not come back through the only opening of 800 acres of fence are having to rely on the kindness of kinfolk till we can get them separated and brought back. You could say that they are getting coal for their gift.