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 ;)
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