Thursday, December 10, 2009

Winter is Here ... Cows are in the Shed

It always seems like if I'm not prepared for something it comes and worse than expected. Then, if I am prepared it doesn't happen. But, this past few days it was a case of me being somewhat prepared and the winter storm showing up pretty much as they said it would. All told I think we had around 14 inches of snow between Tuesday night and Wednesday night and with that came high winds and then finally bitter cold temperatures. My preparation this time came in the form of working on the inside of the cattle shed.

On Monday my in-laws showed up and my father-in-law helped me line the inside walls of the shed with oak boards to protect the steel. We also built a hay feeder along the inside wall for winter feeding. I was quite surprised with how quickly everything came together and by the end of the night we had the inside of the shed mostly done and even had the fencing up for the winter paddock. With all of that accomplished I decided that I might as well have a little cattle drive and move everyone the one hundred yards or so to their new home.

The cattle drive was a piece of cake. I just called the cows over and led them across the yard with a bale of hay. I can now look out the front windows and not see any cows ... it is a nice sense of accomplishment to see an empty pasture. Also, feeding in the shed is much easier and less wasteful because everything is contained in the feeder and the feeder is right next to the hay storage. (I hope to have pictures up soon)

But, none of this would have been possible without the help of my father-in-law. He is a woodworker and has made much of the furniture in our house, but he has also lent his skills to us building the house and finishing up the shed (the inside and the steel siding). The picture on the left is of a roll top desk he made for my wife. You can check out some of the other pieces he has made and see what is available on his website (he is taking orders and has a few things in the shop ready to go) ... I think the shed is pretty nice, but as you can see he can do quite a bit more!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Stoneyfield Farm Thanksgiving Update


Happy Thanksgiving from Stoneyfield Farm!

We hope you had a great Thanksgiving and that you were able to reflect on the blessings from the year. We have been blessed so much on the farm this past year through friends and family. We were glad to be able to spend the holiday with our families and happy to share a Stoneyfield ham on Thanksgiving Day with so many who have helped us.

With more holiday parties coming up and people looking for a gift for that person who has everything, I thought I would take a minute to share with you what we will have available this winter for meat. Right now we have 3 different options with our pork: sampler packages, individual pork cuts / sampler add ons, and orders for wholes and halves.

As always, our hogs are raised according to the same standards as Niman Ranch. They are kept outside free of confinement houses and have been allowed to live the way pigs were designed to live - rooting up the ground, wallowing in the mud, and relaxing in the sun. They have not been given or fed any antibiotics or hormones, and their custom rations contain no animal proteins.

~+~ Wholes and Halves ~+~
We are now taking orders for our winter pork that will be sold as halves and wholes. Our processing date is scheduled for January 14 with the pork being ready around the last week of January. The price per pound hanging weight to Stoneyfield Farm is $1.85. There will also be a locker fee of around $0.60 - $0.65, depending on the types of cuts chosen. We have attached a locker worksheet showing the various cut options.

~+~ Mix and Match Pork Sampler Packages ~+~
Our Mix and Match Pork Sampler Packages are still available while supplies last. Although we currently have a variety of choices, we do only have one package left for a couple of our sampler package options. A comparison chart of our sampler packages is attached and prices for packages are as follows:

Sampler 1 $25 (~6 – 6.5 lbs)
Loin End Roast, Sandwich Ham, Bacon, Cottage Bacon, Breakfast Sausage

Sampler 2 $25 (~5.5 – 6 lbs)
Butterfly Chops (2), Ham Steak, Bacon, Breakfast Sausage, Ham Hock

Sampler 3 $30 (~7.5 – 8 lbs)
Loin End Roast, Ham Roast, Cottage Bacon, Italian Sausage, Soup Bone

Sampler 4 $30 (~7.5 – 8 lbs)
Iowa Chops (2), Ribs, Ham Steak, Bacon, Italian Sausage

Sampler 5 $35 (~7 – 7.5 lbs)
Tenderloin (2 unbreaded), Sandwich Ham, Shoulder Roast, Bacon, Ground Pork, Soup Bone

Sampler 6 $40 (~9 – 9.5 lbs) SOLD OUT
Butterfly Chops (2), Ham Steak, Shoulder Roast, Bacon, Italian Sausage, Ground Pork, Ham Hock

~+~ Individual Pork Cuts / Sampler Add Ons ~+~
Our Individual Pork Cuts / Sampler Add Ons are new and will be available as supplies last. If you found a sampler package you like but want just a bit more, you can buy individual cuts of pork by the pound. These cuts are also available without purchasing a sampler package if you just want to give our pork a try. Prices for individual cuts are as follows*:

~ Ham Cuts ~
Sandwich Ham - $5.00/lb
Ham Steaks - $5.00/lb
Ham Roasts - $5.00/lb

~ Bacon Cuts ~
Cottage Bacon - $5.75/lb
Traditional Bacon - $5.50/lb

~ Loin Cuts ~
Iowa Chops - $4.25/lb
Butterfly Chops - $4.50/lb
Tenderloin (unbreaded) - $5.00/ lb

~ Roasts ~
Shoulder Roast - $3.75/lb
Sirloin Roasts - $4.25/lb

~ Ground ~
Ground Pork - $3.00/lb
Breakfast Sausage - $3.25/lb
Italian Sausage - $3.50/lb

~ Ribs ~
Ribs - $3.75/lb

~ Soup Bones ~
Soup Bones - $1.80/lb
Ham Hocks - $1.80/lb


~+~ Pork Delivery ~+~
The Mix and Match Pork Sampler Packages and Pork Sampler Add Ons / Individual Cuts can both be purchased from our farm. We are also able to deliver into Knoxville most days and can deliver to drop off locations in Pella, Des Moines, and Cedar Falls when we gather enough orders for a trip. We will consider other delivery locations if there is enough interest.

~+~ Grass Fed Dexter Beef ~+~
We have been getting quite a few inquiries about our Grass Fed Dexter Beef. Since we are building up our herd right now, we are not yet selling by the whole and half. We are hoping to have sampler packages available on a limited basis this winter. All we are waiting on now is making some additional room in our freezer (by selling a few more pork sampler packages) or by acquiring another freezer. We are currently taking names to be put on our waiting list for our beef. Our waiting list is getting quite long, but we will work our way down the list as soon as we have beef available.


If you have any questions about our grass fed beef or naturally raised pork sampler packages, individual cuts, or wholes and halves, please feel free to contact us. May your blessings continue to be evident as we move into the advent season!

*Some prices have been adjusted since our newsletter.

If you have any questions about our grass fed beef or naturally raised pork sampler packages, individual cuts, or wholes and halves, please feel free to e-mail us . May your blessings continue to be evident as we move into the advent season!


Monday, November 23, 2009

Small-Scale Pig Farming...

As with any beginning operation I knew there would be a fairly steep learning curve associated to adding pigs to our farm. But, I also knew that pig farming was something that everyone in my family (dad and uncles) had experience with so there would be help when it was needed. I have relied on them greatly many times and I thinking I'm beginning to learn along the way in little bits and with baby steps. But, one difficulty that I didn't anticipate was how hard it would be to get feed!

I will readily admit that I'm not one of the biggest feed purchasers in the county and I'm actually probably in the minority when I purchase pig feed, but it has been trying at times to get the attention of the mills and get the feed I wanted. One thing that most people probably don't think about with the loss of diversified farms is the loss of feed mills. There was a time that practically every local co-op or feed store had a mill. That is no longer the case now.

In our area one cooperative has purchased many of the local co-ops and then consolidated their services. Where at one time there was a working feed mill in town the closest one is now over 20 miles away. And, at that feed mill I have had a problem getting them to work with me on a ration that I like (basically a vegetarian Niman Ranch style feed). There is another locally owned mill about 30 miles away and they have been helpful, but distance is a factor.

Both feed mills deliver to our town on a fairly regular basis, so I have been taking advantage of that. But, with the increase of our swine herd and the addition of the bulk bin I was hoping to get feed delivered to the farm in bulk. That would cut down on the handling (I filled the feeder this weekend with 80 bags of feed and that took awhile). But, since the mills are so far away they would rather not deliver.

Maybe it's time I begin to think outside of the normal box. We will begin running pigs in the woods next year and that will cut down on their feed intake a little bit, but I think I also need to be looking at different feed sources so I can make sure we are getting the rations we need.

Joel Salatin on Martha Stewart

Last week I saw a post on Allan Nation's blog saying that Joel Salatin would be on the Martha Stewart show. I don't watch Martha ... or much television in general (although there is a show I don't like to miss), but thankfully the segment was added to their website. If you have slow internet like I do you won't be able to watch this, but if you have access to a fast connection I would encourage you to check out this clip from last Thursday's show. Along with Mr. Salatin she also interviews Robert Kenner the man behind "Food, Inc."

In case you can't watch the clip here are some of the high points ... at least in mind ::
  • I feel that Mr. Salatin comes across as a guy that has his stuff together. He is very knowledgeable and can get his points across ... although he does use some big word combinations.
  • Although, he said it's possible to feed the U.S. from farms like his (and hopefully ours in time) I wish they would have gone a little deeper into that. I enjoy hearing as much on that subject as possible.
  • He is a funny guy with some of the things he says...
  • I really like this idea :: "The best way that I know is to actually take your recreational time ... and enjoy finding the farm treasures around your community." (Mr. Salatin said that) Good job Farm Crawl folks!
  • Final thought ... Mr. Salatin has moved from farmer to advocate and I think that is great. I realize that he still does the farming, but because of the success he has had I think he now as the opportunity to become a true advocate of local farmers and that he should continue to use the doors that are open to him.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cowpooling or Pigpooling?

Recently someone pointed out this blog post about "Cowpooling" and I thought ... "hmm, I should recommend this to others". I know that in the past people who have purchased whole or half hogs from us have split up their portion either because they didn't have the freezer space or because they knew they wouldn't be able to go through their pork very quickly. But, I really like the idea of a group of people getting together to do some "cowpooling" or "pigpooling". I believe it goes hand-in-hand with our desire to build community through having a connection to the food we eat.

In a way the bundles of pork we have available now are variation of "pigpooling" I suppose. We have split up a whole hog into approximately 17 bundles that offer a fairly equal variety of cuts. This way a customer who does not have the freezer space for a half or whole can still get in on the action. So far we have been able to sell a decent about of the bundles, but we still have more for sale ... if you are interested in purchasing a bundle just check out this post and shoot me an e-mail.

Now that I have the sales pitch out of the way (I have to do these every once-in-a-while since we are trying to run a business) I do want to say that I think "cowpooling", "pigpooling", "gardenpooling", or even "small-grainpooling" is the way to go. For too long we have been moving away from communities of people that can depend on each other and share with each other. I have a feeling that in too many neighborhoods these days when you come up a cup of sugar short you just head to the store instead of stopping at the neighbors house ... I know that I'm guilty of that.

Sharing a cow or pig or garden share with your neighbors and friends is a great way to get good food ... have a connection with your neighbors/friends ... support local farmers ... and, know where your food is coming from!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Everywhere You Look ... Mud!

It feels like it has rained for about 36 straight hours (or more). It has not been a downpour, but it has been a steady and cold rain that has amounted to a bit over an inch I believe. With all of this rain our farm has turned into one big mud puddle. In fact, I think mud puddle might not even be the right word at times because in most places the water just sits on top of the ground not really even soaking in to make mud!

The above picture is what are farm looks like basically if we receive any measurable amount of rain. The moisture just doesn't soak into the ground and will either run off or evaporate. I'm sure I'm exaggerating a little bit, but that's what it seems like. And, we I'm out doing chores and walking through these puddles I understand just how far we have to go on this farm to get the soil fertility up to a level that is really beneficial.


I am encouraged though when I hear success stories of farmers and farms that were able to build healthy soils. I know Joel Salatin likes to write about how his farm used to be sparsely covered in grasses, but after rotational grazing and giving back to the ground instead of just taking it is like a whole different farm. So, do any of you have any other encouraging stories like that so I don't get down every time it rains on the farm?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New Hog Confinement Video

Here is the headline from FoxNews.com yesterday :: "Undercover Video Shows Pig Farm Employees Allegedly Abusing Pigs". The first lines from the article read, "A disturbing video released exclusively to Fox News by the animal rights group Mercy for Animals (MFA) shows a string of alleged abuses at one of the nation's largest pig farms, including footage of employees picking up baby pigs and tossing them like footballs." And, then there is this video...



My response to the video ... Honestly, my response was just indifference. Not that I thought that everything that was going on at that farm was acceptable, but I have seen these undercover videos before and the response is usually the same. Most people are usually horrified, the company is horrified that the practices are happening and vow to take care of it, media focuses on it for a days news cycle, and then everyone goes out and purchases pork from the supermarket. That is the American response to so many horrific things we see in the media. It impacts us a moment, and then we move on.

No, the animal "mishandling" (that was the word they used) that was going on in this video was not the most upsetting thing for me. In my mind the most upsetting thing was the answer that the folks of Mercy for Animals came up with. Their answer ... cut pork out of your diet. How about this for an answer ... seek out a local farm that raises their pigs as pigs not production units and continue to eat great pork!

In fact (time for a shameless plug) we have bundles of pork available for sale right now. Our pigs were raised outside in the fresh air with access to water, feed (an all vegetarian diet for them so that should make Mercy for Animals happy), and of course dirt/mud. So, instead of cutting pork out of your diet I suggest just changing your purchase point ... (end shameless plug)

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Farm is a Business

Yesterday while I was watching a trailer for Fresh (the movie) I saw this clip from Joel Salatin in the related video sections of YouTube. This is the first time that I have come across this particular interview and I found it quite fascinating. Really, it gave me a lot to think about as I think about ways to ramp up the farm as a business and increase our sales and the number of livestock we raise.



One of the phrases Mr. Salatin used that I really appreciated was, "credible local food system". "Credible" is a word that I find myself thinking about a lot lately when it comes to the ministry of the church, and on the farm. One of the ways that something can be deemed credible by the surrounding world is if it is done with purpose and with excellence. I think it would be easy for our farm to be quaint ... selling some pork to our friends, neighbors, and a few other customers. But, to be credible it needs to be about more than some cute pigs running around and a few cows relaxing on the pasture. It needs to be a solid business that is intelligently run and serves up a great product.

Obviously Polyface Farm (and Mr. Salatin) is light-years ahead of us when he is talking about the importance of hiring and bringing in business minded people. And, he is more than light-years ahead of us when he mentions having successful million dollar farms. But, I think there are some great nuggets of wisdom there when it comes to the way you look at your farm. There are things that I need to think about at least ... Is the farm a retreat for the evenings and weekends (it's a lot of work for a retreat)? Or, is the farm a business that needs a business plan (I should really be working on that) and a model that promotes well thought out and planned growth?

If you have a chance, I encourage you to check out this clip and share your thoughts!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Jumping on the Bandwagon :: Food Inc.

After reading many reviews from various farm and farm related blogs I decided it was time that I jumped on the Food, Inc. bandwagon and watched the film. So, the other day I went to the local Family Video and rented a copy (luckily they had three copies in their new release section). I ended up watching the film a couple of times and checked out all of the extras. I will readily admit that I am pretty far behind on this one (that is usually the case), but I am glad I watched it and would like to share few thoughts...
  • I absolutely loved King Corn ... I think I have said that enough times (even though I was very skeptical to begin with). I mention that because I think in a way Food, Inc. did some of what King Corn did in just presenting the information and giving a couple sides to the story. I especially found the comments from the Vice President of the Corn Grower's Association (or whatever it's called) to be very interesting and revealing. But, I still like King Corn better -- that's just my opinion.
  • Apathetic ... I'm not sure if that is exactly the word I'm looking for, so if you have a better suggestion let me know. But, I always find it interesting when I watch and read things from farmers who are working within the large industrial model. As I mention in the first point the V.P. of the Corn Growers had some interesting comments and really didn't seem to excited about the system as it exists today. The chicken growers (both the segments in the film and in the deleted scenes) all seemed somewhat "blah" about the job the were doing and the way they had to do it. And, even the dairy farmers who met the Wal-Mart dairy buyers had no problem telling them that they don't even shop at Wal-Mart ... which was ironic because their milk was being made into products and sold at Wal-Mart. The most excited farmer ... Joel Salatin.
  • The story of the woman who lost her child because of the tainted beef really tugs on the heart strings. I am still afraid though (and this is what really made the heart hurt more) that no amount of government regulation would solve the food dangers when our system is so industrialized. But, I don't know all the ins and outs of that sort of thing and I'm sure there are a lot of people say that we have to start somewhere.
  • Monsanto and the attack on the farmers wanting to save their own seed (assuming it is not Monsanto's seed) was pretty frustrating. And, I found it more interesting (or disconcerting) that almost immediatly after showing the man's lawyers saying that if he doesn't win it will be the end of all farmer's who want to save seeds and the seed cleaners the fact is revealed the he settled because of lack of money.
All in all I thought it was a film worth watching and I would encourage you to see it if you haven't already. I realize that you may not agree with everything (or much for that matter), but it is still worth a shot and you should allow yourself to think a little as you take it all in. But, did I mention I really like King Corn!



Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Time For Boots :: Part Two

It's kinda funny that on September 28th, 2006 the second post on this blog was about my search for new boots. At that time I was replacing a pair of hiking boots that had traveled through the mountains of Colorado and New Mexico, held up on numerous Boy Scout camping trips, and even survived a minimal amount of farm work (remember back then the farm was just a dream). Well, now here I am three years later and boots are on my mind again!

At the time I ended up going with Wolverine Compressors for two main reasons. First of all was because of the fit. I had originally tried a pair of Georgia boots, but they just rubbed the wrong spot on my ankles and I never wore them out of the house before returning them. But, the second reason I went with the Wolverine's was because I could use my Cabela's points (there is some good to the credit card points system) to purchase them.

For the past three years, and especially the last year and a half these boots have served me very well and are very comfortable. But, a few weeks ago I noticed a funny feeling as I walk around the farm. It felt like something was stuck to the bottom of my boot. When I checked it out I found nothing stuck there, but what I did find was that the sole of my boot was breaking apart. I will readily admit that it kind of saddened me ... it's one thing for a great pair of gloves to wear out (because they get a lot of use), but I wasn't prepared for my boots to go!

So, now here I am just a bit over three years from my second blog post and I'm writing about the same subject! Any suggestions? Of course I'm going to check out Wolverine's again because they fit so well, but I'm always game to check out something new. And, how about the possibility of having them resoled at a cobbler? I've never had that done before ... is it possible?

Ahh yes ... I'm back to posting three days in a row now ... and back to asking silly questions just like I did three years ago!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Explain This Picture...

From time to time I see blog posts with pictures asking the readers to figure out what is going on in the image. Well, do you know what's going on in this picture? If I was patient I would just let you try to figure out what I'm doing, but since I always have a hard time keeping this type of thing to myself I'll just tell you the story, and share another picture to go along with the story.

A few weeks ago my uncle brought down this nice bulk bin that came from his farm by way of one of my other uncle's farms. This will be a handy thing for us to have in the future as we hopefully expand our hog operation because it will allow us to keep more feed on hand at the farm and also order in larger quantities (which might make feed deliveries more feasible). But, since it hadn't been used in a while and some water got inside with just a bit of feed left there was some rust that needed attention.

After successfully getting it off the trailer (did I mention that the cement is a permanent fixture to the structure) my uncle climbed in with an angle grinder and a wire brush attachment. A while later he emerged covered in rust colored dust from head to toe ... have I mentioned how much help he has been! Anyways, with the rust cleaned off it was time to paint inside with some special graphite paint. He thought I might be able to crawl in from the bottom, but that wasn't the case.

So, I had to put on my thinking cap and build a ladder to get down inside (when he was here he had a small enough ladder to fit in through the top). After I built the ladder I climbed up and in and then proceeded to fix a few small holes with bolts and fender washers (and a sealant tape that was used on the Harvestores on the family farm). Once the holes were taken care of I cleaned out all the dust and began the painting process. It sure was nice to have a 73ยบ day in November to get this done.

Now, I just have to clean up a few more pieces. Drag it over to the place where it will live. And, then attach the auger. Once that is all done we will be in business ... now if I could only get those feed mill guys to call be back!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Pioneer Farming

In our radio interview last week I mentioned that I have decided on a new name to describe the type of farming we are doing. The term that I came up with is "Pioneer Farming". But, if I'm going to be throwing around that phrase then I better be defining it and giving some reasoning behind it. First of all the reason that I decided that is the term that I want to use is that so many of the other terms being used now are so ambiguous and encompassing (of course now that I think about it so is the word pioneer). I can't say that we are organic ... we may be kind of natural, but really what does that mean ... and we are only sustainable if by sustainable you mean grass-fed (because financially we aren't quite there yet).

So, I decided we needed a term that fit us and what we are doing. I came up with "Pioneer Farming" ... Not because we are doing something different or new (we really are trying to take what others are already doing and have done and adapt it to our place), but rather I choose that term because I think it describes what is going on out here on these forty acres. We are trying to scratch out the farm from nothing but our saved money, hard work, help of friends and family, and the grace of God. We came to this farm much like the pioneers of generations past would have ... with nothing but a bit of a dream and a desire. And, in order to make it work we are going to have a lot of that pioneering spirit!

Like the pioneers we are going to have to fight and struggle to make things work, and we are going to have to keep looking forward and trusting in what is possible. We are going to have to think outside of the box and even leave the beaten path from time to time. We're going to have to work with what we have even if there is something out there that might work better. And we are going to face many struggles that may seem insurmountable at times.

If we make it through all of that ... then maybe we can come up with a different term to define our farm. But, for now I think we are going to have to stick with "Pioneer Farming".

Thursday, November 05, 2009

A Little Radio Time...

Yep, I know I've been missing again ... even after I said I thought I wasn't going to be missing. So, I've just decided I will post when I can. Winter preparations and church life have me hopping right now, so my down times to compose thoughts are fewer and further between. Not that I'm not having thoughts that I would like to write about (or questions that I would like to ask), rather that I just can't seem to settle down enough to process them and type them out.


With that being said, earlier this week we were featured on our local radio station (KNIA/KRLS) during the weekday news shows. I believe our little segment aired three times throughout the day, so that was pretty cool. In case you missed it, and unless you live in our county you did, here is a link to the broadcast (click on the picture at the right, and then scroll down to "In Depth :: Nov. 4th"). You can either listen online or download it. With my Mac I had to download it and use Flip4Mac, but most will probably just be able to listen online.

One thing that I mentioned in the interview was the new term for our type of farming. I just haven't been able to jump on the natural/organic/sustainable bandwagon when describing our farm so I decided to create a new phrase. What I came up with was "Pioneer Farming". I share just a little bit about what this means in the interview, but I think I'll take some time over the next few days to compose my thoughts a little more. In the mean time ... enjoy the interview.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Panoramic View from the South


A little while ago Rich asked if it would be possible to see a panoramic view of our farm. What I should really do is have a pictorial tour of the farm because even though it doesn't feel like it sometimes we have come quite a long ways and there is a lot going on at the farm these days. But, for now I'll just share this picture and give a little description of the farm as it stands now...

This picture is taken from the northern edge of the farm looking south and it gives a nice view of our house and new shed (darn ugly camper is in the way). As you can see we ended up making the colors on both buildings match. I kind of like the looks of that and will probably try to continue that trend as we add buildings to the farm ... and we will have to add more over time if we continue to expand (or even if we just stay at the same size we are now).

Basically the ground you see in the foreground of the picture now will be the winter lot for the cattle and the large opening on the lean-to of the shed will be their deep-bedding and feed area. This area of the farm drains a little bit more than other areas so I thought it would make a nice winter lot, plus this ended up being the best place for the shed.

There will be a 6 wire hi-tensile fence going from the front edge of the shed out to the road. On the right side of the shed (as you look at the picture) the 6-wire fence will come out from the back edge and then around to the front of the house and out to the road. We will have a gate both in front of the house and behind the house for pasture access.

I'll try to take some pictures of other parts of the farm as I'm out working in the next few days so that I can share more of our progress.

Monday, October 19, 2009

New Pork Bundles Available

Today is quite a full day, again. A meeting at 9:00, office work to be done, small group at church in the evening, and fencing to go around the yard. So today is a quick post to let everyone know that we now have Mix and Match Pork Sampler Bundles available! (You can enlarge the images by clicking on them.)



About One Year Ago...

It is hard to believe that about one year ago (I don't remember the exact date that we moved in ... I don't think I want to remember those days) we were just moving in to this house and onto the farm. What a whirlwind the weeks leading up to move in had been with all the construction going on and all the decisions that had to be made right away. And, I'll never forget the late night trips to Menard's in Des Moines to get building supplies that would be needed in the morning (good thing they stay open until 10:00 PM).

But, none of that would have even been possible if it wouldn't have been for the help of so many of our church family, friends (who are like family), and our related family! On Saturday we held a little open house for our friends and family who were able to attend as a thank you for all the help, support, and prayers. It was a kind of, "Come check out the house in it's somewhat, kinda, mostly done state" party and we are very thankful for all that were able to stop by (we're also thankful for those who weren't able make it).

Wandering around on Saturday inside and outside and talking with all those that have helped out really caught my attention and reminded me of a few things...
  • This is what a community is supposed to be like! As the years have passed it seems like our cultural has become so individualistic to the point of cutting off real community that is there to support at all times.
  • Even though I am overwhelmed at the moment by all that I would like to/need to get done we have come a long ways from when this blog began (I was most concerned about what books to read and boots to buy).
  • Things will get done. Even if it seems like I don't have a plan ... or a clue!
  • I am very thankful for the people in my life.
So, Thank You! Thank you to all that have helped (on everything from sheet rock to fence to cleaning). Thank you to all who have supported us in your thoughts and prayers and encouragement. Thank you to all who have shared ideas and insights.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Some Good Pigs...

If you have been following the blog the last few days you have seen the new pigs that were born on the farm and you have probably figured out that I'm pretty pleased with the mothers. Other than the fact that the gilts decided to both camp out in the same hut and have their babies things could not have gone better. Between the two of them there were eighteen born and now they are six days into their life and we have not lost a single one ... even with the cold temperatures and stress of moving pigs and chasing around the gilts to get them each in their own hut!

I had made three huts available to the gilts and each hut had over a bale of bedding in them. I noticed right away that they were sharing the same hut, but as I checked out the other ones I could also tell they had been checking them out and moving hay around in them. I just figured that eventually they would spread out when the they were getting ready to farrow. That was my mistake ... I don't know if you just chalk it up to the fact that they were gilts, or if they would have done that no matter what.

One thing that I think has made a difference this time compared to our first litter on the farm (9 pigs born, 7 weaned) is the bedding. With the last litter born I used wood shavings and chips in the hut. This did make a nice bedding pack, but there wasn't as much "squish" (for lack of a better word) as there is with the hay. I think the hay allows some extra protection for the babies.

But, the biggest factor in my mind has to be the breeding. I purchased these gilts from a farmer who has been building a herd and keeping back gilts for twenty years. He farrows all his litters in huts without heat lamps and that's the way these gilts were born and raised. His selection and breeding program probably played the biggest factor in the success of these two litters.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Big Thank You!!

Thank you Tom (for figuring out how to put together a shed) ... Thank you Randy (for showing up in the snow and missing part of the Iowa game) ... Thank you Tim (for taking the time to come and help all while putting up with Randy) ... Thank you Dad (for driving up for the day to work with me and remind me it always doesn't go the way it's planned on the farm)! With all of that help, plus Becca and the wives and kids inside keeping food ready and more, we were able to get about 90% done with the shed.

All that is left now is the front of the shed which is mostly just a two foot section at the top and the "v's" coming down to the posts. Once that is done the shed will be entirely covered with steel and we will be one step closer to taking on the winter weather (which decided to show up a bit early). As you can see from the pictures it looks pretty good. I enjoy standing out behind the shed and looking towards the house ... the two matched buildings look pretty nice together!

I will admit that I am becoming slightly overwhelmed by the amount of work left to do before the winter. It seems like there are a million projects staring me in the face on the farm and plenty more at the church. When I take time to think about all the things that I would like to and need to get do it just about paralyzes me. So, this week I'm hoping to take my free moments and just knock off things as I can. As long as there is some daylight I need to be working on something!

In somewhat shed related news (it is related because they slowed us down on Thursday) our two gilts are turning out to be pretty good momma's. Eighteen pigs were born and I separated them into a group of eight and a group of ten. As of this morning (four nights into their life) we still have eighteen little pigs and they seem to be doing great! I'll write some more thoughts on these gilts and pigs soon...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Great Shed Day

There were no farrowing gilts to take care of first thing Friday morning so yesterday was a very productive day on the shed project. With just the help of my father-in-law we were able to put up the steel on the main part of the east side and about a nine foot span on the west side. The reason we didn't get as much done on the west side is because we spent a good chunk of the morning getting the door track and framing done. Not that that job is done we should be ready to move ahead pretty quickly today.

Here is what we have left: 1.) Finish putting the steel on the west side of the building (a piece above and a piece below the door track all the way to the end); 2.) Put the steel on the back of the lean-to (this is the easiest part because it is already cut to length with no angles); 3.) Build the door and hang it (we'll get to this if we have time); 4.) Put up the trim and smaller pieces of steel across the front of the building (it is open across the front so this will mean a bit of cutting).

The amount we get done will totally depend on how much help we have, but I already know of two family members coming so I expect to get pretty far. All in all we made it a bit further than we were expecting today so we should have a decent chance of getting the main work done tomorrow. The only thing holding us back ... cold weather! We are supposed to hit a high in the low 40's. Oh well, time to break out the flannel lined jeans.

Friday, October 09, 2009

New Pigs!

Yesterday was just plain crazy. I headed to church early in the morning to get a start on a pile of work because I know that the next couple of days will be focused on putting up red steel. I stayed in town until after lunch so I could get a couple big extension ladders for the shed work, and then we finally made it out to work on the shed around 3:30 PM. Not exactly what I was hoping for, but it was what happened. Before we got in too deep though I decided I should go check on the pigs just in case...

Of course they had farrowed while I was gone in the morning! And by they I mean both gilts had farrowed ... in the same A-Frame hut. What ensued next was a little bit of craziness as I decided (after consultation with some experienced pig folk) that the little hut might not be the best place for two first time moms and the 18 babies between them. So, we had to separate the gilts and the pigs somehow (with an emphasis on somehow).

Let me condense a hour-and-a-half into just a few sentences. Basically the two gilts had no desire to leave the hut, even though I was taking pigs out and putting them in another hut. Finally after poking and prodding enough I got one and then both out, but one pig was especially angry with the whole situation and she tired to let me know every chance she got. After much gilt wrangling and quick fence construction I now have one gilt in each hut. One gilt has 10 pigs with her and the other has 8. Even after all of the confusion they seem to have settled down a bit and all the pigs were nursing when I checked late last night.

Now we are just going to see how these first time moms do.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Shed Siding Starts

In spite of the cold, rainy day today, we are starting the siding on our shed. My father-in-law has come to help get the ball rolling for the the project. I don't have much time to write today, but I have added a link on the sidebar that you might enjoy. Under my blog archives there is now a search option which will allow you to do a search within my blog. Hopefully it will make the information that I have found and that has been shared more accessible now. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

She's Back . . .

Just in case you didn't notice, my wife, Becca, is back from blogging vacation. You can click here to head over to her blog or click on the link to the right.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

A Shed Party?

Nothing says "party" like a nice October day and some quality time spent doing manual labor, at least that is what I'm hoping! This coming Friday and Saturday we are going to try and get a good start on siding our shed and we are offering up an open invitation for anyone that would like to come a work for a while. If anyone would like to come on out and help on either day you are welcome to come out around 10:00 AM or so each day and work as little or as long as you would like. Of course we will be offering plenty of food and drinks and as many thank yous as we can get out in a day! If you are interested in coming out for some work (and some fun I'm sure) just shoot me an e-mail.

The shed is a very important piece of the puzzle, but it is just one of the first pieces to get everything squared away for winter. Once the siding gets up there are a few other "shed related" projects that we need to tackle. In no particular order: 1.) Trench water and electricity out to the shed (both are coming from roughly the same spot so only one trench); 2.) Install frost-free water and hydrant in shed; 3.) Install electrical panel and some outlets in the shed; 4.) Finish the high-tensile fence around the shed and yard; 5.) Construct cattle working area with chute.

Of course there are plenty of other projects to do related to the cattle, the pigs, and the house to get ready for winter, but I think I'll just focus on those right now! It sure seems like Laura Ingalls Wilder's family got their farm set up more quickly than us ... but I guess they didn't have a town job either. Plus, they were smart and usually built a smaller house ... out of dirt!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Farm Crawl 2009

Yesterday was the third year that I have been able to take a tour on the Farm Crawl (I can't remember exactly how many years this event has been going on). It is really great to get out and see so many farms close by that are working in so many diverse farming pursuits. But, it was especially great to see how many people there were out there crawling from farm to farm and supporting local agriculture. I don't know how many people there were, but there was a crowd at each farm we stopped at.

This year we stopped at Blue Gate Farm, Schneider's Orchard, Coyote Run Farm, and Reichert's Dairy Air. It was nice to get out and see these farms and the farmers (especially since I have had a chance to chat with them from time to time as we have started the farm). Each farm has a little different niche, although they do overlap in some areas. But, what is really neat is to see the farms operating in their own unique way ... and outside of the "conventional box".

We took quite a few mental notes this year and hope to have a chance to be on the Farm Crawl ourselves in the future. Luckily we right about on their loop and very close to Reichert's so it wouldn't be too difficult to join in if there is room for one more. This kind of thing is right up my alley ... people coming to the farm and checking out what we have going on!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Some New Gilts...

I'm beginning to wonder if I can do anything right when it comes to farming. Thursday I purchased three bred gilts. These were pasture farrowed outdoor raised gilts from a herd that has been going strong from 20 years. Needless to say I was very excited about these additions to the farm. But, now I only have two of them. That afternoon one of them escaped and is long gone. I have spent about four hours combing the pasture and the woods looking for this lost gilt ... and she is gone.

Needless to say I'm a little less than pleased with myself and the way things have worked out. I am spreading the word around the neighborhood and keeping my eyes peeled (along with driving different roads to town each time), but so far I haven't found anything.

The other two gilts are settling in just fine and are probably getting close to farrowing. I big thing now is to get them into separate huts. Right now the two girls have both decided to take up residence in the same hut even though there are two others available ... that is today's chore!

Friday, October 02, 2009

Want to Learn How to Side a Shed?

Well, so do I ... Today the steel (and all the other stuff to put it up) is set to show up at the farm finally. We placed our order just a few days before a price increase that was coming and it seems that everyone else did as well, so we have had to wait awhile. But, now that our steel is arriving on the farm we need to get it up on the shed so that we can move on to other shed related projects (winter lot fencing, hay manger construction, water in the shed, electricity in the shed, etc.). So, I guess we (with the help of family) are going to learn how to side the shed.

The project shouldn't be too complex, just a bit time consuming as we get everything figured out and put up. One big portion of the work that needs to be done is the sliding door on the west end of the lean-to. The east side of the lean-to will be open to allow the cows to come in to feed, but the west end will have a sliding door in order to block the cold winter winds yet still allow a tractor to drive through when the deep bedding needs to be cleaned out in the summer.

Other than that project it should be fairly straight forward as we do the sides and the back side (it will be open along the entire front). The easiest part will be the back side because those pieces of steel will already be cut to length, but I have faith that we can get the rest done. Now, we just need to pray for some light winds so we don't have to fight a breeze putting up thirteen foot pieces of steel!

If you are in the area and would like to learn (ha ha) how to put steel on a shed drop me an e-mail and I'll see if I can help you out ;)

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Pasture Seeding Questions...

I'm not even going to look down and see how long it has been since I last posted ... I'm sorry to those of you that read regularly and those of you that have been wondering where I have been. I'm especially sorry because I thought I was going to get going again after that last break. Nonetheless, here I am writing a blog post again. I haven't stopped farming, but I have been plenty busy on the farm and at the church and trying to figure out all the puzzle pieces that need to get put together before the ground freezes and the snow flies. To get the "blog ball" rolling again I think I'll just start out with an easy post...

As you may or may not remember I have been using a springtooth harrow and a drag harrow to bust up the anthills on the farm. Doing this has brought into sharp focus the need (or my desire) to reseed a few areas of the pasture. There are some areas that are so over grown with brush and prickly elms that once all that is removed I'll pretty much have bare ground (or weeds only). So, I would like to do some pasture seeding on maybe a third of our pastures. And, maybe broadcast some seed on a few other areas.

My question, and I realize this is a very location specific question, is what type of pasture mixes would you recommend if you were going to be drilling in some seed? And, when you would you suggest doing it (this fall or in the spring)? I would love to hear any thoughts people have on this subject and I'll be doing a bit of research myself, so I'll report back.

As always, thanks for reading and I'm sorry for such incredibly sporadic posts ;)

Saturday, September 05, 2009

A "Bale" of a Good Time

Earlier this week I was able to get the haybine up and running and cut about 4 acres (more or less) of grass. It was nice to know that the haybine we purchased last year was in good working condition. I knew the rake would work fine because I used it last year, so the last piece of the puzzle that needed to be put together was whether or not I had a working baler. I knew that there was a spring underneath that was broken, but since I do not have a manual (or a lot of baler knowledge) we didn't get the correct part ordered.

Good thing there was a plan B, or C, or D ... I don't really remember which plan it was, but I do know that we were able to borrow the families New Holland baler. With a working baler in hand we were able to finally put up the hay that I cut. Needless to say, it was plenty dry and ready to be baled.

The grass in that area of the farm is mostly a mixture of warm season grasses. As Rich mentioned in an earlier comment we have some Bluesteam, Indian Grass, and Switchgrass which actually covers most of our farm. It is a nice stand in some parts and a bit thin in most of the farm. I would say our bales averaged about 40 or 50 each and we have right around 130. Not a real good cutting, but at least it is a start.

It is very nice to look into the shed and see hay piling up!

Friday, September 04, 2009

Grinder Chicks?

I'm sure this video and story is making the rounds now, but I've been waiting to put it up because of the guest post. Also, it gave me some time to think about my thoughts on the subject ... and after much reflection I realized I'm not sure where I land on this subject. Actually I guess I have an idea of where I land, but the answer is fairly complicated. I'll get to that, but first the video in case you haven't seen it yet (and an article from Fox News).



Here is where it gets complicated. I think there would be a fairly large segment of Americans (maybe even a majority?) outraged at the idea of the chicks being ground up alive because they aren't needed. On the other hand I am completely convinced that a large portion of those that were outraged woudn't not be very excited about the prospect of paying substantially more for eggs or or poultry products (because one of the reason of getting rid of these chicks is because they will be slow growing for the meat market).

So really, I believe it is a catch-22. I do not believe it is very good stewardship to waste so much potential and that is why I think more dual-purpose (both meat and egg layers) chickens are the way to go. But, the average consumer in American wants eggs cheap and on demand and to get that high capacity output our large commercial farms need super birds. And I guess the super egg laying breed boys aren't quite as super as the girls.

What are your thoughts on the subject ... no big deal ... over zealous hidden camera guy ... or something to think about?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Have Haybine ... Will Cut Hay

Last year we bought a line of hay equipment, all from the same farmer. But, as of yesterday morning the only piece of equipment that I had used was the rake. Last night that all changed after I finally got the gumption to get the haybine ready to go and cut some hay. I spent some time in the morning crawling around underneath and on top of the haybine looking for all of the grease zerks and then I oiled all the moving parts that didn't have zerks. After all that I began working on the big problem ... getting the hydraulic cylinder to lower. I don't know exactly what the deal is (it's a fairly involved story, so I won't get into it), but lets just say I am able to lower and raise the haybine ... just not as easily as I should be able to!

Once all of that was done I was ready to go. The area I cut wasn't very big (probably 5-7 acres), but I really enjoyed the process. Partially because it was a beautiful night and partially because I was doing some productive work on the farm and things were mostly working out. As you can see from the picture the sunset was pretty amazing and it was only made more amazing by the fact that I saw it from the tractor seat as I was making rounds cutting hay.

Now, I just have to see how long it takes to dry, rake it up, and then figure out a baling plan. I may have gotten a little ahead of myself, but I have at least four different plans to get it baled. I'm not too worried about it ... yet!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Calling the Cows...

One thing that I have really appreciated about the new perimeter fence is the ease of moving the cows to new grass. We are not yet to once a day rotations yet, but we are getting there as I figure out how much grass they need each day and how to handle them with the tall warm season grasses that we have right now. I'm trying to use the cows as part of my pasture renovation by getting them to eat down as much as I can before I come back in with the anthill buster and the brush hog (to get rid of all the bushes).

All that being said, one of my favorite things to do is call the cows to some new grass ... it always amazes me that they will come (even from the other side of the farm) and it surprises people when the see it. I can't say that I've done anything special to train my cows, so I just think it is in their genes (kind of joking there).

But, Saturday evening a they were in a far corner of a large open area and I wanted to get them into some fresh grass. I walked out into the field and started calling out, "Come on now cows!" Slowly but surely they started bawling out and starting to move towards me. I kept calling and walking towards the opening in the electric fence I wanted them to go to. Once the lead cows came over the hill and saw what was going on they took off running!

In a matter of minutes they were all in the new area and grazing away. I stood there for quite a while (with some friends) watching them fill their mouths with fresh grass and see the calves bound around and upset their mothers by walking under the fence to the good stuff (there is clover in the areas where I have mowed). I'm not saying that I know why it works to call them like I do ... I'm just saying it works and it is enjoyable!

(I'll try and get a picture up this afternoon or evening)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

1 in 6 Iowans...

I realize that from time to time it may seem like I'm a little hard on conventional agriculture here in Iowa and around the country. Really, I just am passionate about what we are trying to do and what others are already doing that is outside of the "2009 agricultural box" that it can come across like that (and sometimes I'm just plain hard on something). But, the other day I came across this report from the Iowa Farm Bureau that says 1 in 6 Iowans have jobs either directly or indirectly related to agriculture. I thought that was a good thing for my state...

I'm not sure what the percentage was 50 years ago, but 1 in 6 isn't too bad in an age where the number of farmers is shrinking, but the size of farms is rising. Our state has found ways to capitalize not only on our great soil and climate from growing corn, but also on our ability to come up with different ways to keep the economy rolling within the agricultural world we have here. There are some very smart people coming up with some pretty crazy things here in Iowa that effect farming all around the world.

Just think how many more jobs agricultural could provide in Iowa if we support for locally raised food continued to grow at the rapid pace that it is growing now ... We'd have to add more farmers! Just a little food for thought...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Where Have I Been...

For about a month I have been mostly gone when it comes to the blogging world, in fact I'm not sure if there will be anyone left out there to read this. But, I am back ... well, at least I think I'm back and I'm going to try to be back. I guess after 600 plus posts here and over 100 posts on the Epi-Log I kind of caught a bit of the writers block bug and slowly fizzled out. First I started posting later in the day, then I started missing a few days, and then I just quit posting altogether. But, today ... maybe ... I'm back. At least I'm going to try to be back because I miss the interaction and the exchange of knowledge!

So, what has been going on? I don't really know where to begin because I'm not exactly sure where I left off, but I will share a few updates today and over the next few days.
  • As you know from previous posts (at least I think this has been covered), the perimeter fence is completely up now and working wonderfully. I still have to put up four 12 foot gates (two openings) on the outside by the woods, but other than that we are just using it and it is working great. Out on the line we get about 9.6 kV, which I think is pretty good (and I can say from first hand experience it provides quite a shock!). The next chore is to put up the fence around the house, it will run at half voltage and have a cut-off switch.
  • Last week five pigs took a trip to the locker. Loading was quite a chore, but I feel like I was a little more prepared this time even though it still took a while. One of these days I will build the perfect system, for now less than perfect will have to do. In other pork related news we now have two state certified freezers that we can sell meat out of. This allows us to sell by the package or by bundles of cuts. I'm looking forward to this because I know we have quite a few customers interested in 10-20 pounds instead of a half or a whole. The inspection process was pretty easy. We just had to pay the money, have them come out, show a label from the locker (we can put a "raised by" label on it), and put up a "No Smoking" sign by the freezer. If you are insterested in pork send us an e-mail and we will let you know what is available when it is available.
  • The shed ... ahh ... the shed. It needs steel on the sides, I haven't gotten that done yet...
  • Our new bull Sundance is adjusting well to the farm and being kind of loud! He is doing great, but we have him seperated from the herd still so he likes to call out and make his presence known to the ladies and the other boys in the herd. I find that he likes to talk the loudest at the times when I like to sleep the most. But, other than that we are still super glad that he is here and I absolutely love his temperment ... and he loves his treats!
  • Winter hay is still and ongoing issue for me, but I think we are starting to get this squared away. In fact I didn't mean that to be a play on words, but I think will will actually be feeding mostly small square bales this year (from our farm and my dad's). I think this will work out the best, because it will make it much easier to feed inside the shed with deep bedding for the animals. Now, I just need to line up some corn stalk bales for bedding (I have no idea how many I will need).
So, I'm back ... and ... that is just a taste of what has been going on while I have been away from the blog. As some of you may have figured out I haven't been getting back to all my e-mails either with all that has been going on, but I'm slowly making my way through those as well. Thanks again for all the insight and discussion all you readers have added! All that help has really come in handy as we begin to make some visible progress on the farm.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Follow Stoneyfield on Facebook

Becca has recently set up a Facebook page for our farm, Stoneyfield. You can check it out here or from the Facebook button on the right of the page. It contains links to things like our websites and features done on our farm. There will also be some photo galleries. If you become a fan of it (a Facebook term for the non-Facebookers) you will recieve updates about products for sale, any new features done about the farm (hopefully there will be another one or two sometime), and whatever else gets added to the page.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Vegetables of Our Labor

There are many things that I enjoy about farming and living on the farm, but one thing that is really fun are the times when we get to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Or in the case of the supper I had the other night it is the pork and vegetables of our labor! As you can see from the picture above we are starting to harvest some of our sweet corn and while we have it at meals there is also plenty to freeze for the winter. Along with the sweet corn my wife has also been canning green beans and we should have a good supply of each until next years garden is producing.

One thing that we have noticed though is that the sweet corn in the ground where the pigs lived is doing amazing. But, the tomatoes and other things in the area where they weren't isn't doing as well. It is obvious why this is happening, but I'm always amazed at how much some good nutrients can add to the garden. We will put the pigs in there for a little while in the fall again and hopefully begin building some good soil.

In the mean time we can eat plenty of corn and beans (and a few tomatoes) and of course enjoy some great pork along with the meal. Now, if only I could plant some grains on a small scale then we could have home grown bread as well...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Busting Anthills

A Ford 5000 ... a spring toothed harrow with sweeps ... and a drag harrow ... now we are in business busting anthills! Thanks to the help of (and shopping) of my uncle I am now able to bust up some anthills and try to get this pasture smoothed out a bit. And, I must say that this little rig is working great. Because of the size of some of the hills it will probably take a pass from each direction, but once it is all said and done I think we are going to do quite a number on the anthills on the farm.

The next step will be getting rid of all the brush and then over course deciding what to send into the grasses that are already there. On one hand I could just let it come back on it's own over time, but I think with a little investment we can get the pasture in shape a little more quickly and add in some cool season grasses to go along with the relatively thin stand of warm season grasses that are left in the fields.

I will admit that it is the brush clearing that will take the most amount of time though. For much of it I can attack it with my brush mower on the back of the tractor, but there are a few stands of locust trees that will need to be taken out with the chain saw because they are pretty thick and pretty plentiful. On top of that they are very thorny! Once we get that accomplished then we may drill in some seed.

I plan on talking with some farmers in the area for a good seed mixture to use, but I know for sure that I will be talking with the local grassfed beef farm that has hosted a couple PFI field days the past two years. It is nice to see things start to come together around the farm!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pork For Sale!

Once again, we have “Old Fashioned Pork” available, just like Grandpa and Grandma used to have. Our pigs are kept outside free of confinement houses and have been allowed to live the way pigs were designed to live - rooting up the ground, wallowing in the mud, and relaxing in the sun. This summer the hogs we have available are a Berkshire/Hereford cross, for sale by the whole and half.

Pricing is as follows:
  • Purchase of hog = $1.85 / pound hanging weight to be paid to Stoneyfield Farm
  • Processing of hog = $0.60 - $0.65 / pound hanging weight (their average for a typical order) to be paid to Milo Locker - an award winning, state inspected locker
The hanging weight of the hogs we have this summer should be somewhere around 175 lbs, give or take depending on the individual animal. The amount of meat you receive will reflect on the specific cuts you choose. The average order usually takes home around 70% of the hanging weight. For example, 70% of 175 lbs is 123 lbs.

We have a processing date reserved at the Milo locker, and the meat should be ready to be picked up the first week of September. Feel free to e-mail with questions or for more specific information on cut choices.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Meet Tama Sundance

Well, about 1,100 miles later we finally have our new bull, Tama Sundance, home safe and sound. Except for some storms on Tuesday morning our trip was fairly uneventful as far as things go when you are hauling a bull half way across the country. Sundance was a good passenger who didn't make any noise and drank plenty of water along the way. It was also a relief to see him walk right out of the trailer and have some grass, drink some clean water, and eat a little all within the first five minutes on the farm.

As you can see from the picture above he truly does look like a bull, which is something that we were really looking for. But, beyond looking like a bull we think he will add a lot to our herd. He has great feet and seems to pass that on to his progeny (good feet are an issue in the Dexter breed). Also, the folks we bought him from feel like he improved the udders of his offspring as well.

Another plus for him is that he is red and homozygous from the dun color. That was a nice addition for us because we have a growing number of dun cows and heifers in our herd and I just plain like that color. Also, the red is nice to have becasue we do have a red heifer now and I wouldn't mind adding more so that we can have a representation of all the colors (black, dun, red).

All in all I'm glad to have him here on Stoneyfield Farm. He seems like he is a gentle guy and I think will be a great fit for the farm. Right now he is haning out by himself and getting acclamated to the farm, but we can't wait to get him out with some of the herd.

Monday, August 03, 2009

"Why Don't He Write..."

Okay, today's title is a great line from a movie ... anyone know what movie it is from? But, the bigger question is where have I been. For quite awhile now I have been blogging six days a week. In fact I have even come up with posts to put up while I was gone on mission trips and other youth related things. But, for the past month or so blogging has been pretty tough because of all of our projects and farm work. I guess it finally caught up with me and now it has been almost a week since I have posted. But, I have a reason...

We have been on the road for the past few days taking in a wedding and heading all the way to Virginia to go bull shopping. I figured that since we were in the area (well, it was 9 hours from where the wedding was) we might as well go and pick up a nice Dexter bull. Our travels took us to Olde Towne Farm in Virginia and to Tama Sundance (the picture above is from the Olde Towne Farm website because I forgot my camera cord).

Sundance is a great looking bull that we think will add a lot to our herd in years to come and we are excited to see some calves! Hopefully now I can pick-up the blogging again, because there sure is a lot that I need to catch up on.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Farm Updates...

You may have noticed that I haven't posted the past couple of days like I usually would. Things have been busy on the farm as I've been pushing to get some projects finished up so I can move onto the next thing. I thought it would be good to just share a few quick updates today while I'm at work...
  • The fence is really coming along and I'm hoping to have the perimeter wrapped up tonight after picking up some supplies in town. All I have to do yet is bury a wire underground and then put on some jumpers. With that we will have electric fence all the way around! Some of the finishing touches will have to wait until a couple other projects are done, but the most important stuff is done.
  • If you are scoring at home we have had four calves this year. One dun bull calf, one dun heifer, and two black heifers. Seventy-five percent heifers ... I guess I'll take that! I will admit that in the evenings I often get side tracked watching the calves run around kick up their heels.
  • Our pigs are growing. In fact we have five butcher hogs ready to go and I'm thinking they are going to be pretty tasty because of the Berkshire in them. The only problem we are facing right now is that the processor we used last time is booked up because of fairs until late August. We are looking for another option now, but if you are interested in a half or a whole just let me know.
  • As I have mentioned previously the shed is up and it is now ready for steel to be thrown up on the sides. I'm hoping to get the project knocked off the list in the next couple of weeks, but we have to do a little planning first. Hopefully it won't be an overwhelming job, but if I have learned anything out here on the farm I have learned that nothing ever goes as planned.
  • In other farm related news my wife has been canning green beans at least once a week for the last few weeks. When all is said and done we hope to have a good supply for the winter. Also, the sweet corn is coming along nicely, but it isn't quite ready yet. I can't wait for it!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thinking of Winter Feeding...

With all of the fence blogging going on lately I have neglected to mention one of the biggest topics on my mind lately, which has been winter feeding. Because of everything else associated with getting the farm up and going (which is the big push this summer) we weren't able to make hay with the first cutting of our grass and I know that with only one cutting there won't be enough to make it through the winter. This means that I'm going to have to buy in some hay, which also means that I'm going to be feeding mostly round bales again this winter. And, to top that all off it means that I need to figure out how to get the big round bales to the farm. So far I have come up with a couple of options.

Option #1: Try and buy all of my hay relatively locally. I'm hoping to have between 40 and 50 big round bales so that I don't have to worry about buying late in the winter, but that also means quite a bit of transportation. Last winter when I bought 12 bales a friend from church hauled them for me in two trips, but this would be a much more substantial undertaking. One idea would be to buy from someone that delivers. This would be the easiest way to get my hay and would take the least amount of my time, but it could be the most costly.

Option #2: This is kind of the crazy idea and whether or not I like the idea really just depends on my mood at the moment. My step-grandmother owns some land about an hour and a half from us that has about 11 acres of grass on it. I could use my dad's tractor, mower, and rake to get that hay ready and then hire my cousin to come down and bale it. This would also include paying some sort of rental price to my step-grandmother. After it was all baled then I would have to hire my cousin again to haul it up to the farm (where I would need some help unloading). One nice thing is that my cousin can haul 11 bales at a time. The downsides of course are that it will mean more time spent on my part and that it may not save me that much. I guess an upside is that I could maybe get a very small second cutting off the ground that I could square bale so I would have some small squares on hand.

As I have been walking around the farm pulling fence, pounding posts, and putting in cotter pins these are the two options I have bounced back and forth in my mind. As I type them out I still can't decide which option I like the best. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Good Fencing Wrap-Up

It's another busy day at the office, at the fair, and on the farm. But, I did want to point out a great overview article about the fencing project that Gary Duncan put up on the Powerflex website. You can check out his thoughts and some pictures of the work by taking this link. I think Mr. Duncan did a great job of boiling down our three days of work into a nice article and it is pretty cool to see how far we have come! Of course I need to thank him again (and my uncle) for all of the help. Without their help we wouldn't have cattle up against new fence now ... but, we do!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Another Fencing Update

There may be a point when you get tired of blog posts about fencing, but right now I'm just so excited about it. Plus, yesterday I made quite a bit of progress on the exterior fencing along the woods and I'm getting pretty close to fencing in some cows. There are three sections of fence along the woods and I was able to get all three wires up on the shortest section and even have them clipped in before dark. But, that was only part of my night.

After work I loaded up a trailer full of Powerflex posts and other supplies and took off. In just a little over one hour I was able to pound in 71 sixty inch Powerflex posts 18 inches into the ground. After I had all those in it took about another hour to go through and drill three holes in each post for the cotter pins. Then with the sun still up (or at least it was still light enough even though it was cloudly) I decided to put up a couple more wires! I feel like I'm getting the hang of it now, even though I still can't break the wire like Gary Duncan did.

I guess I don't have a lot of other fence building experience to draw on, but I feel like working with the smooth hi-tensile wire is fairly easy once you get the hang of it. And I know that attaching the wire to the Powerflex posts is extremely easy, plus I love the fact that I don't have to worry about shorts on the posts like I would with steel.

All in all, I think I'm just a few evenings of work away from getting everything up and running except for a bit of fence around the yard. That will be a day of celebration!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Marion County Fair 2009

It is county fair season here in Iowa (and probably around many parts of the country), so that means it is time for kids all over to throw on their farm clothes and spend a few days showing their livestock and hanging out in the barns. I love this time of year because I think it really does cause the kids involved to slow down a little and really enjoy life without all the cultural stimulation, but I have a feeling that the 4-H shows of today are quite a bit different than there were 50 years ago and it does cause me to think a little.

This morning I spent some time at the breeding ewe show and watched kids of all ages show their sheep and take home their ribbons and trophies. There was an interesting comment from the judge that did cause me to think a little about the world of showing livestock and what we have to look forward to with our children (because 4-H is probably in their future if they want). As he was judging a class of eight ewes he said something along these lines,
"My son is big into the club lamb world and if he were here right now he would be scratching his head at the order I have them lined up. But, I'm a farmer and our lambs need to make us money so I like this first ewe because she looks like she is ready to go to the pasture with the ram."
I am actually glad that he said that because in my mind that is what 4-H should all be about ... kids showing animals that are and will be productive on their farms or on a nearby farm. But, I think there is a growing push to buy in livestock that will help bring the prizes instead of producing good stock on the farm. I hope there are judges like that when our kids are showing.

So, do any of you have any experience in 4-H or the livestock showing world? Like most of the farming world it is pretty foreign to me, but I'm interested in learning more!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Not Just Fence...

The past couple of weeks has been all about fence on the blog and on the farm. But, that hasn't been the only thing happening. As you can see from the picture above the builders finished with their part of the shed and now the rest of the work is up to me (and hopefully the help of some other people). We ended up with 13 foot side walls because there was some extra room on the posts (which is really nice) and because we have the higher sidewalls it also means the lean-to is a foot taller as well on the outside wall. All in all I really love the shed and can't wait to get some steel up on the sides and get it closed in. In the meantime I'm just glad to park stuff inside and keep it kind of out of the elements.

Our super-duper late calving season is also continuing, but I think we may be getting close to the end of it. So far this season we have had four calves with three of them being heifers (two black and one dun). Those are pretty good percentages, but it doesn't give us very many steers for the freezer. One neat thing about the most recent dun heifer born is that it happened right up by the fence where Gary Duncan was working. So we have so pictures from early on in it's life!

Other than that things are moving right along and it is beginning to feel like things are starting to come together. The work does seem a little overwhelming, but like people keep telling me ... it will get done!

Friday, July 17, 2009

PowerFlex Fence Project :: Day Three

Yesterday was Gary Duncan's last day helping out on our farm and I just want to say ... Thank You Mr. Duncan (I guess my habit of using "Mr." on the blog is causing him some grief back at the office)! The help that he was able give was incredible and really gave us some help in a very important project. Beyond the teaching though I have to say that he just plain worked hard, and hopefully we didn't wear him out. By the end of the day yesterday we had all the fence up along the roads and the grounding rods installed.

We were also lucky enough to have a couple visitors today that drove down to check out the Powerflex posts and the hi-tensile fence. They were a couple we met during our Grow Your Small Market Farm class and I have to admit that I learned a bunch more with them here because they asked a lot of great questions. Later in the eveing while I was putting the finishing touches on some fence a neighbor stopped by and said, "Okay, you have piqued my curiosity". We were able to have a nice talk about fence and I shared a little about our new fence and the Powerflex posts in particular.

This was such a great experience and I am becoming a big believer in hi-tensile fencing and the Powerflex posts. But more importantly I think I have learned enough to finish the rest of the fence. As a truly beginning farmer there are a lot of things that I do on the farm that I have never done before. Thanks to the help of people like Mr. Duncan, our friends, and of course our family. Keep checking back for updates on the fence and I'll let you know how it goes!
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