Saturday, May 30, 2009

I Can't Do it Alone...

Just to prove the point that I have made many times on this blog, that I can't do it alone, here are a couple pictures showing some recent work being done on the farm. In the first picture you see one of our great church friends helping till the front yard so it could be seeded to grass. While he was here he also tilled up the garden and now we have plants starting to poke through the dirt. In the second picture you can see my helpers hard at work on the hog hut with me. I only had a few minutes to work in between soccer practice and doing the opening prayer at the races, but my helpers helped make the most of my time! Thank goodness for those willing to help out...

Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Link Round-Up

From time to time people drop me a note and let me know that they enjoy the blog and share some of their expertise with me. It is wonderful to hear words of encouragement, but it is even more exciting when I get to hear about what other people around the country are doing or want to do. Thank you so much for the e-mails and comments and keep them coming! Lately I have collected a few new links that I wanted to bring to your attention and that I will place over in my links section.
  • The Farmers Forum: I want to encourage you to visit this site that our blog friends down at Nature's Harmony Farm started. It kicked off with a lot of action and a wealth of information, but I must confess that I have neglected it for a while now. So, go check it out and let's make use of the amazing amount of information that can be gleaned from a forum full of farmers.
  • Yeoman Lawyer: Yeoman is a frequent commenter on this blog and always is very encouraging and insightful. Lately he has also been rather bloggy! The topics on his blog don't all have to do with agriculture in a specific sense, but I think they are all applicable. Also, be sure to check out his post about Victory Garden posters!
  • The Yeoman Farmer: Don't get this blog confused with the previous one, but it is a great blog to check out by a farmer who is living out many of the ideals of Thomas Jefferson's "Yeoman Farmer". Lots of great posts about life on the farm and life in general.
Are there any other links or blogs that generally deal with agricultural that you check out daily? I would love to hear about them!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Tech-Savy Locavore

I realize that probably not to many readers of this blog have an iPhone (although I would take one if anybody is donating them ... just think how much more blogging I could do then), but for a few days now I have noticed that the iPhone application Locavore 1.01 was the App Store pick of the week last week. If you don't follow the whole iPhone/App Store world this basically means that someone at Apple has picked out this little program to highlight at their App Store.

As far as I can tell the Locavore application works best with the iPhone at the moment because of it's GPS requirement, but it is a pretty cool little application and I think it says a lot about the mainstreaming of eating local. Of course you can use it with your iPod Touch, but it won't be able to tell your location and you will just have to search for things in your area.

What this little program can do (with the help of your iPhone) is let you know what things are in season near you, what is coming into season, where a local farmers market is, and even links to Epicurious receipes (it seems like there was a post about his over on the Epi-Log). If nothing else I think it gives some more publicity to the local food movement and I think that is a good thing.

Now, if only I could find a way to get an iPhone without going broke ;)

**Also, be sure to check out yesterdays comments for a great response from Jim Gerrish. I am so thankful that he has taken the time to share on the blog!**

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Note From Jim Gerrish...

Way back in November of 2007 I wrote a couple of posts on Ultra High Density Grazing (post one and post two) and mentioned the work of Greg Judy and Jim Gerrish. I have to admit that I was and still am equally amazed and interested in the idea of Ultra High Density Grazing and all of the things that go along with it. But, the other thing that I am willing to admit is that I don't have a very good understanding of the methods, terminology, and everything else. Thankfully there is a thing such as Google and also wonderful people such as Mr. Gerrish who are willing to take some time to set me straight!

Yesterday I received an e-mail from Mr. Gerrish that helped me understand a few things. Here is a sample of what he wrote:
"The 2000 to 8000 lb per acre I was referring to is the standing forage yield. Basically 1 to 4 tons per acre of standing stockpiled forage."

"We generally graze winter stockpiled forage at a stock density of 120-140,000 lb-liveweight/acre with daily moves. On really heavy stockpile, we’ll occasionally break 200,000 lb liveweight/acre. Greg [Judy] usually moves three or four times per day. His reference to 500,000 lb liveweight/acre stock density is an instantaneous measure. If he moves 3x daily, the 24-hr stock density (the only way to accurately relate animal needs to forage supply) is 166,667 lb/acre. If he moves four times daily, the 24-hr stock density is 125,000 lb/acre. We are basically grazing at the same carrying capacity and 24-hr stock density. He does it with multiple moves each day. I do it with a single move (basic laziness on my part!)."

"We usually graze 300-500 cows in the winter and our daily chore time is about 25 minutes. That chore consists of taking down one 1000 ft section of polybraid and leapfrogging it ahead for the next day’s move."
That helped me understand what he is doing a lot, and it has given me a lot of encouragement in what we are hoping to do. Hopefully this is something we can work towords. In fact is something that I started doing with our 5 heifers this morning because I wanted to clip the grass really short in the area where we are going to be building a shed. The mower isn't going yet, so I might as well use cow power and not waste the grass!

Any good book recommendations on this subject that you have read? I would love to hear them...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Building Continues

I've probably said it over 100 times on this blog, but sometimes things don't always go as you plan! I had planned to get the hog hut done on Saturday and have everything ready to go by Sunday at the latest. But, sometimes things just don't go together as planned and then sometimes it starts raining and you don't have a shed. Which is all to say, I don't have the A-Frame hog hut done yet, but I'm getting dangerously close! All that is left to do is attach the plywood, the hardware (hinges, latches, etc.), and put it out with the momma-to-be.

I ended going up with the plain A-Frame design pictured above (and linked here) for a couple of reasons. First of all, it is a plan from the 1930's so it is something that is tried and true and still in use today. That must mean it works alright. Secondly, I decided to try this one first because it was easier to build. I had hoped to build the E-Hut style, but it is a little more involved and I wanted to make sure that I had materials that would last when I built one that took that amount of time.

This A-Frame looks like it will serve its purpose well though. I have followed the basic dimensions of the design, although I have made a few changes because I am using plywood for the covering instead of barn boards. Also, I have only put a pig door in one end, but I will have upper vents on both ends, and I will be able to lift one of the sides (I think) in order to get inside more easily to process the pigs.

Once it stops raining and I finish things up I will post some pictures.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Victory Gardens

In honor of Memorial Day today I found this very short video on Victory Gardens. You can read more about Victory Gardens on Wikipedia, but if you have any historical facts and on them I would love to hear them!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Take it From Me: Lessons Learned 6

Okay, this is the last lesson for now, but I think it is one that I have thought of most often ... Just get out there and farm! Now, I'm not saying that whenever you have the urge to farm you just drop everything and head to country, but as you have heard me and others say from time to time on the blog you just need to get out there and do it sometimes.

As soon as we started to have the farming idea takeoff in our minds I started filling my mind with as much information as I could. I read and read and read and read! I had conversations about farming with trusted family members and we started to formulate plans. But, then we hit a point where it just need to happen or not. So, we bought a farm, moved to the country (eventually after the house building help of many), and decided to build this farm from the ground up.

Now, since it is Saturday and I don't have too many obligations I am going to go farm. In this case I'm building some pig shelters and a new area for the sow...

Friday, May 22, 2009

Take it From Me: Lessons Learned 5

Never give up. Plain and simple one of the biggest lessons that I have learned and it is one that I always desire to pass on to everyone that I meet (especially my children and all the students I work with). Over the course of building the farm (which still is not complete, nor will it ever be) there have been many times when I felt like it might be time to give it up. When we have faced set backs, blocks in the road, or when it just plain felt like it would never happen there have been twinges of doubt that would creep into my mind.

I understand that there may come times when the best result is to step back and reevaluate, but that does not mean giving up. That may just mean that we need to make changes for a time or recognize that our passions aren't matching up with our farm, but it does not mean we just throw up our hands and throw in the towel.

Farming (as much as I have learned) is a process of ups, downs, and not many "normal" days. There are times when that sort of life can bring a person down or at least make them think that things just aren't working out. I have tried to learn from of the downs and apply them to our farm! But, know this ... I'm not giving up!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Take it From Me: Lessons Learned 4

This is one of the lessons that I have really begun to appreciate the deeper we get into our farm. The lesson that I have learned is that farming is not a solitary occupation, or at least it should not be a solitary thing. Really I can't do this on my own and I don't even think I should be trying to do it on my own. In fact I'm I think the solitary society that we have created recently in our American culture is kind of not the right thing...

The biggest part of my help comes in the form of my wife (and even my kiddos). She helps with the fencing, getting escaped animals back in, daily chores when I'm busy, encouraging me, helping with the farm plans, and so much more. Our extended family has also been a huge help and encouragement as we set out on this journey.

But, the help doesn't end there. I think one of the greatest things about farming is and should be the community that comes with it. I know that I have received amazing amounts of help from my friends and neighbors and I am beginning to have opportunities to share the love. Right now I'm on the receiving end of so much help and I am very thankful for it.

As we grow on the farm it is my desire to continue the tradition of community that has been a cornerstone of agriculture of centuries. It just works...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Take it From Me: Lessons Learned 3

I guess this is starting to become a little series, but I think that is a good thing. Not only does it hopefully help others that are beginning or are contemplating beginning a farm, but it also helps me put things into perspective. Sometimes I need a little reminder of the lessons I have learned and what I need to do to apply those things. Today's lesson is, "knowing when to say when," and it is one that I continually need to be working on. The people pleasing side and the dreamer side of me don't like to say no.

It doesn't matter if you have left your job and thrown yourself completely into the farm or if you are like us and you are combining your town job and your farm job the skill to know when to say enough is a very important thing. When you make the decision to begin a farm it is something that you need to recognize will take a lot of time, effort, passion, and energy. If you are constantly saying yes to things that take away from your main farm goals (whether they are farm related things or otherwise) you are putting yourself in a difficult situation.

Some of you may know that in the spring for the past five years I have coached varsity girl's soccer at the high school. This is something that I absolutely love! I love the interaction with the players, the parents, and the school staff. I also love the job of coaching and teaching these girl's about the game (and even life). The problem is a high school varsity sport takes quite a bit of commitment. Five days of practice or games each week for ten weeks, and when there are games I'm usually gone all day (until around 9:30 PM). I need to be able to objectively evaluate things like this and seen where I should be spending my time.

But, learning to say no isn't just about off farm activities. On the farm there are a LOT of things that I would like to do. There are different livestock options I would like to add, projects I would like to do, and things I would like to take on. For example, as badly as I would like to add some broiler chickens right now (or four weeks ago) I need to stick to my "no" guns and realize that now is just not the time. There are other things that need to take priority.

For a guy like me that loves to dream and look towards the future learning to say no is a difficult thing, but it is a thing that I need to do!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Take it From Me: Lessons Learned 2

Yesterday I wrote about the importance of patience when you are beginning a farm (or living your life), today I wanted to share another lesson that has become very evident to me. The thing about being a beginning farmer, like myself, is that there are a lot of things I don't know. I have tried to fill the void in my farming brain by reading as much as possible and seeking out all the information that I can find. But, let me just tell you ... there is no replacement for the joy and increase of knowledge that can be found by seeking out other farmers and picking their brains.

Here in Iowa I have the benefit of an organization like The Practical Farmers of Iowa that has helped me connect with and meet other farmers that have similar goals and practices that we desire to have for our farm. I have been able to ask questions, observe their farms, and generally pick up as much knowledge as I can.

But, there is also the huge benefit of living in an agricultural state that has farmers all over the place. At our church there are many farming families (mostly farmers that also have town jobs) and they are a wealth of knowledge. I may not want to duplicate their some farming practices on our place because we have different farming goals with our direct marketing, but that doesn't mean that I can't learn TONS from them. Many of these farmers have done the same things we are working on doing now (some have just moved up to "bigger and better things") and their knowledge is priceless.

So, my lesson learned ... seek out and connect with other farmers. Gather that knowledge, ask them questions, and apply what you learn because often times what you can learn is gleaned for years and years of experience!

Take it From Me: Lessons Learned

Now that we have have been living on the farm for over six months, owned the farm for over a year, and started this thing over two years ago I think it is time for me to offer some lessons learned from time to time. Of course there has been a lot that we have learned over the past couple of years, but specifically I want to share some lessons that pertain specifically to beginning the farm and getting everything going from scratch. Today's lesson ... patience is a good thing!

As I was standing out in the sprinkles yesterday moving a fence for the five heifer calves so they could have new grass (and because they were out already) I realized how many of our struggles and problems could have been avoided by a little bit of patience. For example ... we bought our first Dexters before we even had a farm, we bought our first pigs before we had their pen completely built, and then we moved the Dexters to the farm before we had any perimeter fence built. On top of that we could really use a shed/barn of some sort to keep everything out of the weather.

In a perfect world where I was perfectly patient I would say that by now it would be best if we only had our chickens and a few pigs. Then as we had our fencing in and a shed up we could start bringing in the cattle. But, it is not a perfect world and I am very far from perfectly patient! I admit that I really just wanted to get this farm going and in doing so I pushed things along a little too quickly.

So, my advice to others wishing to begin a farm: Get the basics in place before you get going. On the surface I thought we would get a jump start on our cattle herd because that is something that takes time to grow, but in reality we would have probably been equal with or even ahead in the game if I had just slowed it down a little bit. Make sure you have the fence in, water figured out, shelter from the storms (if needed), and a plan. We just had some of that (water and a plan with some holes).

Saturday, May 16, 2009

You Don't Always Get What You Pay For

That could be the title of the post I read over on Allan Nation's "Stockman Grassfarmer Blog". You can check the post out for yourself, but this little bit really says it all:
"The Truthful Labeling Coalition estimates that American consumers annually spend an estimated $2 billion for added salt water in commercial grade chickens, The Wall Street Journal reported. Currently, roughly one-third of fresh chicken sold in the USA is "plumped" with water, salt and sometimes a seaweed extract that helps the meat retain the water."
The poultry companies claim that they have been forced to go this route (have no reason to doubt them) because the large chains want a uniform product and by adding as much as 400 mgs of salt per 4-ounce serving they can get that uniformity. The rub for some people is that the companies are still allowed to call these "plumped" chickens 100% natural or all natural.

I suppose you could say that salt is a "natural" thing, but finding it in such high amounts in a serving of chicken is pretty unnatural I would think...

Friday, May 15, 2009

No Control!

On the farm we are continually to the mercy of so many things. It seems we are always dealing with the consequences of the wind, snow, cold, rain, mud, escaped animals, lack of infrastructure, time constraints, daylight, and so much more. This week it has been the rain! In fact since midnight we have received well over 3/4 of an inch and as I type right now it is still raining (although I think we are getting to the end of this round of showers). All of this rain really is a double edged sword though.

On one hand it I know that I should never curse the rain because then I will complain when it is gone, but in our situation it really does hinder our progress. I suppose on a farm that was all set up this much rain would be a hindrance, but it wouldn't bring all progress to a stand still. This weeks plans included the tilling and seeding of our front yard (a much needed project), but now we just have a lake again in the front yard.

The rain also slows down our perimeter fencing preparations because I haven't been able to get to a few places to clear out some brush and get ready for the corner posts. On top of all that the rain, and more importantly the mud that it brings, will slow down the progress on our new shed. They have not started yet, but everyday that it pours like this our project gets pushed back a little.

But, I will say this about the rain ... as I walked around the fence this morning checking on the cows in my mud boots and rain suit I did enjoy the sound of the rain. I think just about every type of weather or condition is beautiful in it's own way on the farm and I'm thankful for all of that beauty!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Giving Local a New Meaning...

Even though I'm not writing for the Epi-Log I still love to check in and comment when there is something there that really piques my interest. Such a post popped up yesterday from James Oliver Curry. He wrote about a recent New York Times article that outlined a new emphasis by Hunt's and Lays Chips on the local ingredients they are using in some of their products. This quote from Mr. Curry's post sums up the idea:
"The New York Times today ran an article about how the folks behind Lay's potato chips (Frito-Lay is owned by PepsiCo) and Hunt's canned tomatoes (ConAgra) are placing the spotlight on the local people and communities involved in making their products (carefully worded not to say "locally grown"). Yes, some potato farmers in Florida supply the ingredients for the chips that are made in Florida. But does that count? Local to the manufacturing plant? Local to Floridians? Am I a locavore if I eat a Lay's potato chip in New York? That's stretching it."
This particular post hasn't drawn a ton of comments just yet, but I would be interested to hear what your thoughts on the subject are. On one hand I can understand the comment that says that it is good that they are at least building the local economy by using things from local farms and employing locals at their plants. But, there is also a strong point with the other side that says calling something like a potato chip local may be a bit of a stretch.

To me the big question is what is the motivation. Are these companies trying to jump on the "localvore" bandwagon just like large corporations jumped on the "organic" bandwagon recently, or are they just trying to highlight the fact that they have American employees?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Price Maker or Price Taker?

One of the many wonderful benefits of being a member of the Practical Farmers of Iowa is their quarterly publication. The thing about a member driven organization like PFI is that when it comes time to collect articles for their mailings they can turn directly to the membership and use the practical knowledge of our farmers right here in Iowa. That is the case of an article from the Spring issue that really caught my attention. It is titled, "How to Be a Price Maker v. a Price Taker: Ideas for pricing Meat," and it is written by Ryan and Kristine Jepsen who run Grass Run Farm.

This one really hit me between the eyes because I feel like we have started out in the price taker position because I came into farming with the fear of not being able to sell our product. Despite all the reading I have done about the importance of recognizing that farmers deserve a decent pay for the work they put in I have been scared by the cheap products we see in the grocery store. Over and over I have been reminded that if we are going to do this successfully we are going to have to make a profit, and in order to make a profit we are going to have to make a decent return on our time and inputs.

The main thrust of this short article is that you need to know your stuff. You need to collect as much information and data as possible and use that to set your prices and be willing to share it transparently with your customers. Collect receipts, track the time you spend, know your carcass yields, find out how much you need to gross per animal, and learn what your customers are looking for.

I think this sums it up well:
"We've found it most valuable to communicate these uncertainties to our customers and be transparent about how we make our living. It's not easy for the end client to understand that under our worn plaid shirts and (dusty) jeans, we're farmers, salespeople, inventory managers, truck drivers, graphic/website designers, bookkeepers, business analysts, and family members who routinely take work home."
Good stuff to think about this year!

Monday, May 11, 2009


"This culture is on an extraordinary pace toward needing things to be more efficient. But that is a value that is ultimately antithetical to the gospel. I've never heard of efficient wisdom, efficient love, efficient suffering, or efficient compassion. So what does it mean that we inhabit a world that is so dominated by this ideology of efficiency? That's my interest in asking, what does it actually mean? How is it shaping you without your knowledge or permission right now?"
I came across this quote today while reading one of the blogs that I make sure to hit each day. This particular quote comes from pastor and author Shane Hipps, and while it is clearly a quote based on the subject of Christianity it really hit me from an agricultural point of view.

I wholeheartedly agree that our culture is running at a breakneck speed towards even greater efficiency and that is just as true in the agricultural world as it is anywhere else. If you don't believe me than just read my post about the new John Deere planter (it is all about speed and efficiency). But, just like Mr. Hipp I at times question the importance of efficiency because I think we don't always look at the consequences.

While I understand that efficiency has allowed us to do more than we have ever done before I often find myself thinking about whether or not that is a good thing. Do we need to continually be doing more and creating more (and getting rid of more)? In fact it reminds me of a Joel Salatin interview that I saw on Youtube where he questioned the idea that we even need big cities...

Maybe there is something that could be said about doing things inefficiently? Maybe we would be a little better off if we just had to do things the old fashioned hard way from time to time? Just a thought.

The Thing About 27 Fruit Trees...

When people find out that we have been gifted 27 fruit tree seedlings the have been saying something along the lines of, "Wow, that will be really great for you in a few years when it gets going". To that I usually respond with something like, "Well, fruit trees are really my wife's thing." "Yeah," they say, "but think of all the great fruit you will enjoy!" To which I respond, "Yep, there is a reason that I started the farm with pigs, chicken, and cows ... I like meat!" But, I really am excited about the possibility of the orchard and can't wait to see if it takes off.

There are a few things I learned this weekend about 27 fruit trees this weekend though. Above all I learned that 27 fruit trees require 27 holes and that it takes some time and effort to dig 27 holes in a somewhat clay soil! I also learned that sometimes the best location for the orchard is not the easiest place to put the trees. In the process of planting the orchard I had to tear down a calf pen and move a big pile of compost (manure/hay). It is not a big deal and the trees are now in the best place for our farm layout plans, but it did take three days to plant instead of one or two.

And finally, I learned that there are a lot of people out there with great advice and I am thankful for them. Between comments on this blog, my wife's blog, and from the Practical Farmers of Iowa list we were able to glean a lot of knowledge. That I am thankful for!

In five to seven years (or how ever long it takes) I invite you out to the farm for some fresh fruit!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

The Saturday Agenda...

The above picture tells you all you need to know about my agenda today ... We are going to find a spot for and then plant 30 fruit/flowering trees. This means I need to mow down the area where the trees are going to go and then somehow till up a circle around each tree so the grasses don't compete with the young trees. The plus side is that it is a beautiful sunny day (although a bit windy) and that I'll have the help of my family. In fact if I was going to be completely accurate I would say that my wife would have my help!

My wife has been doing a bit of research into laying out the fruit trees (you can read about it on her blog), but I think we are going to be doing a little more before they go in the ground. Just want to make sure we have everything just right for these little trees.

Wish us luck ... and I'll post some pictures of the new trees when we have them in the ground.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Can You Hear the Grass Grow?

Lately when my wife has been out checking on the Dexters and making sure our new fence is working she claims that she can hear the grass growing when the sun is shining down (I've heard it popping as well). Hearing and seeing the grass growing this spring has made me do a lot of thinking about our forages and our soils. That is why I automatically jumped to the back page of this months issue of "Graze" when I saw the article titled, "Matching plants to soil type is no easy task". That was an article that I had to check out because our soils and our forages have been on my mind lately.

When I make the drive into town I drive past quite a few pastures and hay fields that are really starting to look pretty good with all of the sun and rain. When I get to our place I see green grass (and it is growing), but it isn't as thick and tall as many of the pastures I drive by. This is probably because of a combination of a couple things. First of all, I'm sure that many of those places (especially the hay fields) have some sort of soil amendment added for time to time and our pastures have been sitting idle for about 14 years. But secondly, I know that there are different grass types in all of those other fields. Our pastures have a good amount of warm season grasses instead of an even mix.

Anyways, this article really got me thinking about our soil ... the type ... the nutrients it has ... and the stuff that it is missing. Figuring out our ground will probably be one of the more difficult things for me to do because I don't have any background in that sort of thing, but it is something I'm looking forward to.

Have any thoughts or help?

Can't Miss Field Days

**This post comes a few hours late courtesy of more fence building on the farm. Hopefully we are done for a couple days.**

The 2009 Practical Farmers of Iowa Field Days are up on their website right now and the schedule should be in the mail soon to all the members, but I had to go and check them out. It looks like another great set of events that should be a help to all of those that take the time to attend. I know that I won't be able to make it to all of the field days that I want to attend, but below are the ones that I'm going to try and work into my schedule:
  • Getting Started Grass-Feeding Beef (June 1st): This event takes place near Keystone, IA at the Wallace Farm. It is a 160 acre farm that has been converted from commodity crops to a diverse pasture based system. There will also be a woman from ISU talking about the cost of production.
  • Making $ense of Meat Marketing (June 22nd): Mike Lorentz of Lorentz meats will be there along with a few other Iowa farmers discussing pricing, distribution, and placement among other things. Hopefully I will be able to make this one!
  • Rise and Shine Farm Tour (July 11th): Taking place at the Tjelmeland farm this field day will cover their egg business, transition to organic row crops, and some discussion of prairie reconstruction. The bonus is that it also includes an egg breakfast.
  • Strip Tillage, Living Mulches & Pasture Walk (July 29th): On the surface this one might not have as much interest to me because of our farm goals. But, I am interested in the pasture walk and I especially want to attend because the Abels family who is hosting the event attended the first church I worked at!
  • Completing the Cycle - Soil Health to Finished Animal (August 21st): This one seems interesting because their will be a pasture walk, a look at cattle mob grazing, and a herd dog demonstration. I know there are people on either side of the herd dog discussion, but it is something I'm interested in learning more about.
  • Water, Cattle & Organic Transition (August 29th): At the Grice Family Farms field day it sounds like there will be some interesting stuff to learn about cattle paddock systems and water systems. Plus, I'm always interested to hear about the ideas behind organic transitions.
  • High-Density Grazing & Transitioning to Pasture Profitably (September 10th): Holistic management, high-density grazing, transitioning row crops to pasture, grazing recordkeeping, and multi-species grazing. This sounds like a can't miss! Hopefully it works into my schedule.
If you would like to check out all of the field days that are available this year just head of to the PFI website (link above). Hopefully some of you get a chance to get out to one of these great events or at least to a field day near you.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Not Alone

This has been a busy week on the farm and in town, so I haven't had a chance to be very consistent on my early morning blog posts. But, today I just wanted to take a quick moment to say thank you. First of all I want to say thanks to all that read the blog and encourage/educate me. As I have said numerous times before this has become way more than just a place for me to put down my thoughts, it has also become a great place for me to learn (and I hope others are learning along the way as well). Secondly, I want to thank my wife!

Without her on the farm (and her willingness get out there and do everything) this would not even be possible. She feeds and waters the animals when I can't, gets the cows back in by herself, fixes fence, works on the garden, does construction work on the house, takes care of the kids, keeps up the house, and on and on and on. And most of the time she has to do these things alone because I'm away at soccer or at the church. I couldn't do it without her!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Please ... Fence Me In

Because of soccer commitments (and everything else) we have not been able to get going on our PowerFlex perimeter fencing project. Nevertheless the cows (and especially Barnabas the bull) have decided that it is spring and they want to be out on the green grass. I don't blame them one bit, but I just haven't had time to tackle all of the projects that need to be done. But, my plan was to go to a meeting this morning (and arrive early to write my blog post) and then run out to the farm to put up some electric fence so that they could have grass. Needless to say, that isn't what happened.

First the calves got out when I was building a new paddock for them (not their fault ... this was a user error). After getting them back in I had just a few minutes to get ready before needing to leave to the meeting. My wife happened to look out the window as I was getting ready and said, "Where is the bull!" We went out to try and get them in, but they are just spunky when they get on the grass and it was going no where. So, I decided to settle for the better part of valor and skip the meeting so I could put up the fence ... meanwhile the three cows and the bull that were out just wandered the farm.

After a few hours, a trip to McCorkles Hardware and a lot of help from my wife I finally have a nice electric fence up. I would say that the perimeter of the area they have now is about 3/8ths of a mile, so they have a bit of room to roam. I will be rotating them through that area and always giving them a gate back to their winter pen so they can have water. It isn't ideal at all, but it will get us by for now.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Is It Or Isn't It The Swine Flu?

I have been following this H1N1 outbreak for the past week or so since I first posted about it and the developments have been interesting to say the least. The reactions and articles have run the gamut from, "make sure you don't look at a pig" (those seem to be slipping away and I didn't see many), to "let's remember to call this the H1N1 flu virus not swine flu". But, as of yesterday (at least this is the first I heard about it) Canadian authorities are reporting a swine herd has been showing symptoms consistent with the virus that has been making it's rounds and that they probably/may have picked up the bug from a worker on the farm who recently returned from Mexico.

You can read the full article at this link, but for the time being here are a few interesting quotes:
"But officials quickly urged caution. Swine flu regularly causes outbreaks in pigs and the pigs do not pose a food safety risk, Dr. Brian Evans, executive vice president with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, told a news conference."

"The traveler has recovered, and the estimated 200 sickened pigs are recovering as well, officials said. No pigs have died, and officials said they don't think the flu has spread beyond the farm.
Normally, detecting influenza in pigs would not generate a response from food safety officials, but the current circumstances are different with the international flu outbreak, Evans said.
"The chance that these pigs could transfer virus to a person is remote," he said, adding that he would have no issue eating pork from the infected pigs."

"According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, studies have shown that swine flu is common throughout pig populations worldwide, with 25 percent of animals showing antibody evidence of infection."
On a totally related side note ... you may have noticed that hog prices have made a decline in the days after the news of the flu started making the rounds.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Photos From A Weekend on the Farm

A few weekends ago some friends of ours came down for a weekend on the farm. I truly enjoy visitors and love to show them around our place and share our dreams and passions. Most of the time this means that we take a hay ride if the conditions will allow it, so on a sunny Saturday we hooked up the hayrack and set out for a jaunt around the farm. I have to admit that I really have fun driving the tractor around and talking about the farm.

As you can see from the picture above things started out fairly well. It was a beautiful spring day and the kids were having a blast. Along the way I decided to stop and pick up some fire wood because I knew that we were expecting a cold front soon and that a fire would be nice.

After cutting wood things took a turn for the worse. The sun was still shining and it had been over a week since the last rain, but before I knew it we had encountered some mud. It didn't take long for the mud to overpower the tractor and we were soon stuck.

The above picture shows the tractor tires before I had them buried. The one good thing is that I had enough foresight to just stop before I had it buried up to the axle ... of course it did eventually get buried up to the rims...

To make a long story short ... not only did the tractor get stuck, but as you can see the Expedition became lodged in the bog as well! Thankfully we have some great friends with even greater tractors who were willing to come pull us out of our mess! Since then the only thing that has been down in that valley is the bull ... when he has escaped ... and that is a story unto itself.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Making the Shed a Reality

Later this morning I'm meeting up with the builder that put up the shell of our house to discuss the location and size of our new multi-use shed. If you have been around the blog for awhile you may recognize the little diagram I made when I was trying to figure out where to put the shed. When I put that picture together I was pretty set on location number three because of it was close to both water and electricity, but now that we have lived here through the end of winter and the beginning of spring I think I am changing my mind ... plus I found out that it would cost much more than I wanted to level out the spot (it wasn't super bad, but would make stacking hay a little tricky).

What I realized is that location number three wouldn't work as well as I had hoped because of a few reasons. First of all, in order for it to be easy to back things into all three bays of the building I would really have to move it over to the east a bit so that I could clear the electrical transformer box. That move took me to ground that slooped to the northeast. Secondly, If I wanted to build in that general location it would mean that I had to move the building forward and thus kind of wipe out the garden spot. I really want the garden there for many reasons, so that just didn't work.

But, probably the biggest reason was because I plan on having deep bedding for the cattle on the east side of the building with an lot running out on that side. And in wet times (winter thaws and spring) that slope towards the ditch is very muddy. It just wouldn't be a good area to keep our livestock in the winter.

After seeing all of that and living here for a while I think we are going to go with a slightly modified location number one. I think I will back it up a little from that spot and move it so the right edge of the shed pretty much lines up with the left edge of the house (but probably not exactly). This gives us a flat spot for the building and the top of the hill for our winter lot (not as muddy). Plus it is really only about 25-30 feet further from the water and electricity than where I would have had to put the building if we went with location number three.

Our busy schedule paid off for once. It made us drag our feet on the shed because there were other more pressing matters and then we had the opportunity to see our land at work and get a better idea of where things belonged. I can't wait to see it up though!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...