In a world full of confusion, I am choosing to still see the good.
This is such an uncertain time for many people, so I would like to encourage everyone with some positive tales from my simple little life on the ranch and on the road.
A few weeks ago when our life in quarantine started, my little cowgirl and I started spending a lot of time outside on “nature” walks. We walked up to the corrals and through the horse pasture to our favorite patch of weeds that happened to have yellow blooms. As always, she was full of questions, “Who made these flowers for me mom?” I answered with the truth, “God did, Sonora.” And her answer brought me to tears, “Wow, that’s amazin,’” she said in her signature Texas/Oklahoma accent. Leave it to a small child to teach me that God’s blessings are even found in the weeds.
I was reminded how far a simple act of kindness can go a few years ago during the rodeo season when I was a new mom trying to navigate the rodeo life. An older rodeo competitor saw me struggling across the gravel parking lot with my cheap dollar store stroller because I had forgotten my good one once again. He immediately ran over to push the stroller for me. He had better things to do, you know, like rope his steer in less than five minutes, but he opted to help out a woman he barely knew instead.
I realize these are simple stories without a lot of meaning after your initial reading, but to me they are stories that prove we can continue to have faith in the western community.
We are a people who stick together; a people who believe in God and what He does for those who love Him.
Rather than staying silent over topics I don’t know a whole lot about, I am choosing to be vocal about topics I understand entirely. And that is God’s love and the western way of life. How blessed we are to be simple cowboys from Oklahoma surrounded by good friends, abundant acts of kindness and lots of fat cattle.
Raising Chickens for Beginners: A Step-by-Step Guide
Raising chickens can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, whether you’re a homesteader looking to become more self-sufficient or a backyard enthusiast seeking fresh eggs for your family. Chickens are relatively low-maintenance animals, making them an excellent choice for beginners in the world of poultry farming. In this step-by-step guide, we will walk you through the essentials of raising chickens, from choosing the right breed to ensuring their health and happiness.
Selecting the Right Breed
Before diving into chicken-raising, it’s crucial to choose the right breed that suits your goals and environment. Different breeds have various characteristics, including egg-laying capacity, temperament, and adaptability. Here are some popular options for beginners:
Rhode Island Red: Known for their excellent egg production and hardiness.
Plymouth Rock: Friendly birds that lay brown eggs and adapt well to various climates.
Australorp: Record-holders for egg-laying, known for their docile nature.
Silkies: Unique and fluffy birds often kept as pets; they lay smaller eggs but are adorable companions.
Research the specific breeds available in your area and consider factors like climate and available space when making your selection.
Coop and Run Setup
Before bringing your chickens home, you’ll need to set up a safe and comfortable living space for them. A coop and run are essential components of your chicken-keeping setup:
Coop: The coop is where your chickens will sleep at night and lay their eggs. It should be well-insulated, predator-proof, and provide at least two to three square feet of space per chicken.
Run: The run is an outdoor area where your chickens can roam during the day. It should be fenced and covered to protect your birds from predators and provide shade.
Make sure to include roosting bars, nesting boxes, and adequate ventilation in your coop for a healthy environment.
Feeding Your Chickens
Chickens need a balanced diet to stay healthy and lay eggs regularly. You can feed them commercial chicken feed, which comes in various forms:
Starter Feed: For chicks up to six weeks old.
Grower Feed: For chicks aged six weeks to 20 weeks.
Layer Feed: For hens producing eggs.
Additionally, you can supplement their diet with kitchen scraps, vegetables, and grains. Ensure they have access to clean, fresh water at all times.
Care and Health
Regular care and monitoring are essential to keeping your chickens healthy. Here are some key aspects of chicken care:
Regular Health Checks: Inspect your chickens for signs of illness or injury daily. Common issues include mites, respiratory infections, and injuries from pecking.
Disease Prevention: Vaccinate your chickens against common diseases to keep your flock healthy.
Egg Collection: Collect eggs daily to ensure they remain clean and prevent hens from brooding.
Clean Coop: Regularly clean the coop to prevent the buildup of waste and odors, which can attract pests.
Handling and Socializing
Chickens can be friendly and enjoy human interaction when handled gently. Spend time with your chickens, hand-feeding them treats to build trust. Avoid sudden movements or loud noises, which can startle them.
Understanding Egg Production
Egg production varies by breed and age. Hens typically start laying eggs at around 5-6 months old. The amount of daylight, diet, and stress can affect egg production. You can use artificial lighting to simulate longer daylight hours, which can encourage consistent egg-laying.
Dealing with Challenges
Chickens, like any animal, come with their challenges. Here are a few common issues and how to address them:
Predators: Invest in a secure coop and run, and consider adding motion-activated lights or alarms to deter nighttime predators.
Broodiness: Some hens may become broody and stop laying eggs. You can break this behavior by isolating them in a separate enclosure or providing them with dummy eggs to sit on.
Feather Pecking: Chickens can sometimes develop a habit of pecking at each other’s feathers. Ensure they have enough space and distractions to prevent this behavior.
Raising chickens can be a delightful and educational journey. By selecting the right breed, setting up a proper coop and run, providing a balanced diet, and offering care and attention, you can enjoy the rewards of fresh eggs and the companionship of these feathered friends. Remember that every chicken has its unique personality, so get ready to be charmed by your new flock as you embark on this fulfilling adventure in poultry farming. Happy chicken-keeping!
I Saw God Today
By Beth Watkins
Nature is so majestically breathtaking because it is the perfect balance of order and chaos; predictable yet ever changing. This combination creates an endless cycle of life and death that is both hypnotic and sobering. In nature we see the consistency of how everything works together to create something greater than itself. Well, unless you wonder why God created flies, ticks or mosquitos, spiders and snakes. Spending time outside surrounded by nature is generally always peaceful and awe-inspiring. I never really thought about how trees end up growing along a fence line until my life included cows. Sitting on a tailgate in a pasture eating lunch, you have time to question these things. The answer is birds! They eat seeds, and drop seeds literally from both ends all while sitting on barbed wire. Sitting on a pond bank fishing, pondering, how do fish get in a pond that has never been stocked? The answer again, birds and other waterfowl transport fish eggs from other ponds. Sitting on my porch swing watching the sunset, I came to the realization that sunsets and sunrises are determined by where you stand on this big blue marble.
I’ve seen a few sunrises in my many years of life. I’m not a morning person at all, so if I catch a glimpse of a sunrise, I’m in go-mode and there is most definitely a reason I am awake. I’ll confess I’ve probably seen the most sunrises in the fall on my way to Arkansas for a craft fair. Shopping is always a great motivator for early mornings. I do get up early on Sunday mornings, but I’m in a hurry to get dressed and make myself “public” presentable, so I don’t have time to check on the sunrise. Why am I in a hurry? Because I have hit the snooze button two or three too many times. Thankfully I have a cup of coffee on my twenty-five minute car ride to church, which gives me time to catch my breath and tune-up my social interaction meter.
From what I can tell most people fall into two categories: an early bird or a night owl. I’m here to tell you there should be a third option, and I shall name it poised peacock. A poised peacock is neither an early bird or a night owl, but is a unique individual that is highly functional from 10:30am till about 10:30pm. If you have to be classified as some sort of fowl, I would say that category best describes my routine. The feathers can be fully extended at exactly 10:30am and remain up for the next twelve hours but, at 10:31 I’m down for the count.
I’ve been told you get a lot more done in a day if you get up earlier. I understand that concept, I’m just not a fan. I’m not shallow or narrow minded. I’ve given it a try. I’ve had babies, they’ve gone to school, I had to be up early, and still didn’t function well until after 10:30am. For this season of my life, I’m an empty nester (there we go with the bird analogies again!) and very fortunate, I write my own schedule. Even in the summertime when my husband puts me to work; you can’t cut or bale hay until the dew dries up, so no early mornings for this princess.
These days I prefer the time when evening begins closing in; time seems to slow down. The chores are finished for the day. It’s free time; time to choose how to spend the next few hours. If we compared our life span to the clock on the wall. I’m a few minutes after 6:00pm. For this analogy, ideally it’s a summer day that is coming to a close, which means the sun won’t set on my life till a little after 9:00pm. I am savoring these last relaxing hours, before the sunsets for good. A breathtaking sunset is the epitome of fading beauty. For a moment a glorious array of color is adored and then it’s over. Yet, the effects of admiration last long after the light has gone. My hope is that I have left an enduring impression on the hearts of my friends and family.
Like each sunset, everyday is different, you can watch the sunset on the horizon from the same spot everyday, but it will never look the same. Oftentimes I’m overwhelmed at the amount of peace you can find from just taking a moment to breathe in the beauty that God has created. Some of the most beautiful sunsets are formed from the presence of clouds in the sky. Which reminds me of Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him who have been called according to His purpose. I can testify to this truth; all things are not good, but we have a good God in all things.
Maybe Sunsets are my favorite because no matter what you are doing you are instinctively drawn to admire nature’s beauty, the moment the world just stands still, you forget your worries and you can breathe deeper and become refreshed, you can’t help but see God in a sunset. I’ve watched the sun drown in the Atlantic while traveling on a cruise ship headed west as Calypso music filled the air. I’ve caught a rather quick indescribable colorful sunset from Waikiki Beach as the Hawaiin drum beats livened the atmosphere. I’ve sat quietly on a beach in California hearing only the calming effects of the pacific waters as the sun slowly sunk. But still the grandest and most satisfying sunset of them all is the one viewed here, from home; where, in the summer, the frogs in the nearby pond begin their musical contribution to this glorious presentation; crickets begin warming up their instruments; cows eating grass close-by seem to keep the rhythm going as the colors in the sky begin to vibrate; as the sun sinks lower in the Oklahoma sky for the grand finale as the lights go down. Grateful for another inspirational end to an ordinary day, where the paved road ends.
Read more in the March 2023 issue of Oklahoma Farm & Ranch.
FFA National Officer Karstyn Cantrell
It was a Saturday last October, when Karstyn Cantrell heard her name announced from the National Convention Stage in Indianapolis. With a pounding heart, she realized her dream of becoming a National FFA Officer had come to fruition. Years of elation and heartbreak had all culminated in that moment, and it was all because she’d learned the value of saying “Yes!”
In the Blood
Karstyn Cantrell grew up on a fourth-generation cow-calf operation in the northeast Oklahoma town of Collinsville. Her great grandfather, Olin Lewis, had started a dairy co-op. While a dairy cow hasn’t stepped foot on the place since she’s been alive, her family still stores the yearly hay supply in that original dairy barn.
“When my father (Steve) was growing up, he started diving more into the Hereford side. He was big in FFA, and was Collinsville FFA Chapter President. I have an older brother, and when he was old enough to show, we changed a lot of the genetics of our ranch, going from more cow-calf animals to more show quality livestock,” Karstyn explained.
“I began showing when I was four years old, and my brother was my biggest mentor in the show ring. Now it’s something we continue today through a lot of the national shows,” she said.
Since she spent the entirety of her life in the agriculture industry, she made a pretty seamless transition from the green corduroy jacket of 4H to the blue and gold one of FFA. “I was always big in the show ring and thought that was where I was going to find my home, but as I got older, I really fell in love with things like livestock and dairy evaluation, and being active in the Agricultural Communications Career Development Events,” she recalled.
Naturally, Karstyn’s Supervised Agricultural Experience began as raising cattle on the ranch. As she got older, she added an agricultural sales SAE, where her family owns, maintains, and creates their own blends and custom show rations for cattle. “My junior year I decided to add a third component to my SAE with an agricultural communications side and started a blog where I posed weekly updates about things that were happening in Oklahoma Legislature that affected the industry. I’d also post show results, and information about different camps, contests, conferences, and conventions. I would see profit from my blog based off of every thousand views that I got.”
While agriculture has definitely always been part of Cantrell’s story, for a long time, it looked like volleyball would hold the most important chapters. Her mother, Michelle Cantrell, was the head volleyball coach at Owasso Public Schools, and Karstyn grew up watching the teams win state tiles. “I knew volleyball was going to be the lifestyle for me. I honestly contemplated choosing the college career for volleyball. I played club and school and sand, and while FFA was fun, that wasn’t where my focus was,” she admitted.
Then fate stepped in during her junior year, and health issues forced her to stop playing volleyball.
Her decision made for her, she began diving more into FFA.
Already a chapter officer her junior year, she was looking for a new passion. She had thought running for an Oklahoma State FFA Officer might fill the void left from volleyball, but it wasn’t until she was visiting with a fellow FFA Officer that she made the decision. “My friend Kaitlan (Teague) and I were talking about what our life was like, and how FFA had really helped us grow up,” she recalled. “I told her I had to be a State Officer.”
Unfortunately, the time that Karstyn would be campaigning for the position of Northeast Area Vice President was right in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. “That meant all the chapter conferences, speech contests, livestock shows … all those things were closed down. I did a lot of virtual conversations to just maintain the relationships that I had already created. Instead of being the person who was in place at all the events, I really got to refine the connections I already had,” she recalled.
One of the coolest moments of an Oklahoma State Officer’s tenure happens during State Convention, but, once again, those plans changed. “Normally you’re surrounded by thousands of people, and you’re standing arm-in-arm with every single candidate on the convention floor,” she explained.
But because of the restrictions in place, Karstyn and her family learned of her win in a much cozier setting.
“I actually got to watch my name get called surrounded by my parents, grandparents, brother, teachers, family, and a lot of friends. We had a cookout that day, and what would have normally been a stressful environment was really fun. We were able to reflect on what FFA has meant to not only me, but also my family,” she said.
When her name was announced, the celebration was on. “I’ll never forget sitting on the floor when they called my name. All of a sudden, we were hugging each other in a big dog pile, and there was confetti and all that stuff,” she said with a laugh.
“I can’t imagine what my life would look like if I had chosen to go down the volleyball route, especially as I think about my senior year, when I was running for a state office in a time of COVID. So much of my life changed that year,” she said. “At the same time, going down path of serving as a state officer has brought me to where I am now.”
Karstyn served as the Northeast Area Vice President for the 2020-2021 year. Following the State FFA Convention in May 2021, she began the Oklahoma process of becoming a National Officer.
“Every state gets one candidate, so for me, the process included going through interviews and conversations with industry stakeholders within Oklahoma FFA. I had the opportunity to secure Oklahoma’s bid in June 2021,” she explained.
But at the 2021 National FFA Convention, her name was not called to go on stage as a new National Officer.
“It was an incredibly humbling experience to be standing on the Convention floor and watching six awesome people go up on stage after their name was called, and be one of the people who were not,” she admitted. “I can honestly say I experienced more growth within the last year than I could imagine, just because of that circumstance. It really allowed me the opportunity to find who I was in and out of the blue and gold jacket, which better prepared me to go through the process again this past year.”
She expanded on that, and added, “That taught me so much about hard work and persisting through issues. I know, for National FFA, there are more than 850,820 FFA members that we get to serve, and each and every one has faced adversity in some form or fashion.
“So for me that taught me to continue pushing through to find out what gives me joy as I walk through those difficult circumstances, and I can share that with others,” she said.
“Something my parents have always encouraged me to do is say yes to opportunities, so that I can figure out the places I need to grow,” she explained.
That advice has been taken to heart, as Karstyn is involved in many clubs, organizations, and programs on the Oklahoma State University campus, including Ferguson College of Ag VP, Chi Omega Sorority, Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow Club, Collegiate Farm Bureau Club, Student Network Alumni Ambassador Team, OSU Steering Committee, and OSU’s Student Government Association.
“I’ve always had my foot in a lot of different circles, but I think it’s cool to see that each of those have instilled a lot of different characteristics in me,” she said.
Karstyn is an Agricultural Communications major with a minor in Legal Studies. After her gap year serving as a National Officer, she hopes to return to OSU to finish her degree. “I would like to enter a law program, so I can hopefully serve Oklahoma once again in the agricultural policy field,” she said.
When asked what she would tell a young student contemplating joining FFA, her answer was simple. Say yes!
“Say yes. Go to that camp, that conference, that convention, and every time there is a chance to sign their name up, they should do it. That’s how they figure out their place. I tried lots of things that didn’t’ work for me, but they pointed me to what would be a better fit. As a student, you never know what experiences can change your life,” she said.
Read more great stories in the latest issue of Oklahoma Farm & Ranch.
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