Mullis, Dean

HENS, STEERS AND A PIG, OH MY

Charlotte Observer, The (NC)
April 5, 2007
Edition: ONE-THREEGARDEN
DEAN MULLIS, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
Section: GARDEN
Page: 1E
Record Number: 0704050369

EDITOR'S NOTE: Farmer Dean Mullis writes a newsletter from Laughing Owl Farm in Richfield, about 40 miles northeast of Charlotte. Starting today, the Observer will run edited portions in the Home & Garden section.
March 29 The other day, my dad was working on a new fence line in the pasture and left the gate open. Five steers went strolling through our garden. We headed them off before they did major damage, but we lost a lettuce plant and a broccoli plant and they ran through a 100-foot bed of freshly sowed spinach. For about 10 minutes, I was having a conniption, wringing my hat and muttering unsavory words.

But I was laughing by the time we finally got them back in the pasture. I'm grateful that at 46, one of my possible random job descriptions is putting cows back in the pasture.

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This week

I think it is going to be a dry year. We are mulching more long-term crops such as potatoes, and soon tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant with oat straw to conserve moisture this coming summer.

We now have a pig. His name is Rudy and he weighs about 60 pounds.

My brother Rick, who is a photographer, bought this pig to use in spring photo sessions with kids. We had agreed to take the pig when he was done taking pictures with it. I think my sister-in-law was very happy to see Rudy go since Rick has been housing the pig in their basement.

We fenced in a small spot in a pasture with shelter and he's digging it. He's rooting up dirt, turning his water bowl over making mud, and running around. Now, instead of eating the cracked eggs ourselves, we will happily give them to Rudy.

We have come to the conclusion that we will have to move our hens twice a week instead of once a week. They are running out of pasture in four to five days. Not only does this lower the quality of the eggs, it lowers the quality of the pasture when it is grazed that hard.

It takes about two hours to move the rolling hen house and fencing, but my wife, Jenifer, and I think we can get it down to an hour. It's always a joy to watch the hens when we open the door to the hen house and they run onto fresh grass and clover.

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To sign up for the full version of the newsletter, write Dean Mullis: demullis@vnet.net

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