Friday, December 31, 2010

Mistakes ...

Tomorrow is the first day of 2011 which means that I've had this blog floating around for the past four plus years. In those years I have transitioned from book reading to farm buying and finally to kinda farming. But, one thing that has been consistent over all of those years is the fact that I have made mistakes. I made mistakes in my planning, I made mistakes in my early decisions, I made mistakes in my initial farm ventures, and I've made plenty of mistakes after moving to the farm and trying to ramp things up.

They say you are supposed to learn from your mistakes and I guess that is what I've been trying today. I'm beginning to feel like I should write a book about my mistakes and the lessons I've learned because it seems like the mistakes/lessons grow by multiples of ten! And, I'm beginning to think that sometimes it takes a few repeat mistakes before I figure the lesson out ... Here are some lessons that I've learned that were in my mind tonight as I was working outside ::
  1. When you've never farmed before there are lots of little things that you would never think about. After a couple years in I'm still finding those little things and I count on finding them as long as I farm ... it's an unpredictable game.
  2. You have to have shoulders like a rain coat so that things will just roll off of you. There are ups and there are downs ... and when you start from scratch there will be plenty of downs.
  3. Slow down. I don't like slow, but you need to slow down regardless ... unless you have enough capital to just force things along.
  4. Cold weather just plain stinks ... period ... end of story.
  5. Don't paint yourself in a corner ... that means a lot of things at different times, but I think it's an important lesson!
So, there are just a few of the lessons that I was thinking about tonight as I was outside in the wind (those 60º temps are long gone by the way). One of these days I should write down all of those lessons ... all of those little things that never even crossed my mind as I was reading all my farming books and dreaming. Maybe ... maybe I'll just write a book ... I always wanted to be a writer when I was a kid, just like I always wanted to be a farmer ...

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Make Hay When the Sun Shines ...

The old saying says that you have to make hay when the sun shines. I've decided that another good saying would be, "When January is coming, pound in fence posts when the temperature hits 60º and the ground is soft!" So ... since the all of those factors were the case this evening I spent the night outside with my headlamp and post driver. Here it is almost January and I find myself still preparing for winter ... it's not something I'm happy about, but it is reality so I'm taking it as it comes.

What I'm trying to finish up is the winter area for the pigs. I have the hut for them ... I have the straw for them ... I have the spot picked out ... I don't have the fence done quite yet. But, I will have it done soon and then hopefully everything will come together quickly. The place I have for them is north of my shed and I'm going to place some tin along the west and north sides of the fence and of course they will have the hut to go inside that will have straw bedding. It should work out this year for the few pigs I have and then I'll see what happens next year.

Not much on the farm is very permanent and this new pen I'm building fits into that "not very" category. I'm just finding that most of the time I'm not quite sure exactly where I want something on the farm, so it is best to keep things simple and then just change it up if I don't like it. It may take a little more work in the beginning because I'm always putting up ... tearing down ... and putting up again, but I think in the future it will make the farm better suited for me and the way I want to farm.

For the time being though ... I'll just take all the 50º plus days I can get!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Snow :: Mush :: Ice

The title says it all. Before Christmas the snow came. It wasn't a lot of snow, but it was enough to give the state a white Christmas and frustrate me (I really was hoping for a no snow winter). Now there are warmer temperatures and there is rain in the forecast (that will create the always exciting mush). And then by this weekend things are forecasted to cool down again and that will turn the mush back into ice (actually ... of the three choices I prefer this one the most). All of this is rather irrelevant in the whole scheme of the farm, but it does keep chores interesting and makes me wish that I would have made it a bigger priority to get chains for the tractor this year!

Last winter I pretty much got anything stuck that could get stuck and I decided that it wouldn't be a good idea to head into another winter without tractor chains. But, as the summer went along and I was never able to find any in the sweet spot of my price range (read inexpensive, but still high quality) I now find myself in a sloppy position with no chains. This isn't the end of the world though and just means I need to take precautions. One thing I do in if I have want to take the tractor down to the woods or something like that is put a bale on the 3-point spear so that I bit more weight on the back end. It's not the best solution, but it does help some.

The big thing that is going through my mind right now though is the farmer's market season. Last year I did my first market and while it was a good experience for learning it didn't quite make enough sales wise because it was not very well attended. This year I won't have much more product during the market season than I did last year, but by the time fall comes around I should have more hogs ready to go, a crop of lamb, and maybe a steer (possibly poultry as well). That could mean as many as 18 hogs that would need to be sold, potentially 30 lambs, and some beef. I'm afraid that without making any more customer contacts at a market this summer I will have a tough time selling out in the fall/winter.

Any thoughts on the upcoming market season? I'm open for suggestions ...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Forcefully Positive ...

When I was a kid my farm was the hardwood floor of my bedroom floor in town. The boards made the perfect rows for my tractors and harvesting equipment and the bottom track for the closet door always became the cattle feed trough. It was a ready made farm and I think I was a pretty good bedroom farmer. I'm pretty sure that I spent countless hours with the rug rolled up in my bedroom farming and dreaming! But, now that I'm a grown up farmer the reality of the farm isn't quite as romantic as that farm on my bedroom floor ... for one thing I don't have box full of tractors and implements!

When things got tough on my bedroom farm I could just box everything up and call it a day. On my grown up farm I'm not able to pack up and move on to the next game ... and sometimes I dwell on that. So tonight I'm forcing myself to come up with three positive things on the farm right now. Three things that I can look at and feel good about ... hopefully I'm not up all night thinking!
  1. Even though the days are going to get colder and I'm pretty sure there will be more snow there is one positive that I can hold onto. Since it is now officially winter the days will begin growing instead of shrinking! According to this calendar I should gain 45 minutes of daylight between the January 1st and 31st. Despite the cold and snow that I know will come over the next month the extra daylight is something I can get excited about! If I'm wrong about this ... well just don't tell me and let me live in my dream ...
  2. Despite the rogue sheep that keep getting out (although with some extra posts they seem to be staying closer to home) I'm pretty pleased with the way they have been adjusting to the farm and handling the winter weather. There haven't been any super snow storms yet or week long cold snaps, but the wind has blown and it has gotten pretty frigid. It just seems like they sheep flock up and hang-out when the weather gets bad ... and they are doing well. I'm hoping this apparent hardiness is something that sticks with them throughout the winter and carries on into the lambing season. That would be just very nice thank you very much ...
  3. I have hay and straw and I think maybe ... possibly ... hopefully I have enough. I know that I have enough straw on the farm now to last the winter (although I'm not really set-up to use it yet) and with 47 plus bales of hay on the farm I'm thinking it might be enough. Honestly I'm not quite sure how much hay I will need, but I have enough hay for the initial bales I purchased to get through December and then the 47 bales I just purchased to make it until grass shows up. They're heavy and tightly wrapped bales and I think they will be enough, but with the sheep now and the uncertainties of winter weather I guess I'll just have to see how it lasts. On the whole though I'm glad to have it and relieved. Last winter it was a constant search and battle for hay ... hopefully that will not be the case this year.
There ... I did it ... three positives from the farm! Now I just need to keep those in the front of my mind and just tackle everything else as it comes ...

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Future of Forestry ... Or Farming

"How will the legend of the age of trees
Feel, when the last tree falls in England?
When the concrete spreads and the town conquers
The country’s heart..."

Oddly enough this is not the first time that I have mentioned a poem on my blog (I actually love poetry when my mood is right). In fact not only have I shared poetry more than once, but this is even the second time I've referenced "The Future of Forestry" by C.S. Lewis. I encourage you to read the poem ... and then read it again ... and maybe one more time for posterity, because I'm not sure if a poem can sink in the first or second time through. For some reason this poem has been on my mind lately and I'm not exactly sure why, but I do have a few thoughts ::

  • While I'm not very convinced that the last tree will ever fall in England (or anywhere for that matter), or that the country will be covered with concrete from shore to shore I do get the concept. I understand what Mr. Lewis was getting at. I think I've mentioned this before, but my mom spent 36 years teaching grade school in Waterloo, IA. The same Waterloo, IA that is surrounded by farms in every direction, is the home of multiple John Deere factories, and holds a yearly event called Cattle Congress! But, as the years progressed in her teaching career her students lost the connection to the farm, and even basic knowledge of the farm. My old toy tractors became her teaching tools! It isn't so much the reality of farms going away that is scary, but rather the connection with them.
  • In the middle of the poem the students are asking, "What was a chestnut?" and "What was Autumn?" Think of those questions in farm terms ... Is it possible that we could get to a point where children would ask, "Where does bacon come from?" or "What is a farm?" The story of the farm needs to be told. The Farm Bureau is saying that the farm story is needs to be told and local farmers all over the country are saying the story needs to be told. That is probably one major thing both the small-scale/local/natural/direct-marketing farmers and the large-scale industrial agriculture farmers can agree on.
  • But really, I think the reason I ended up on this poem again is because the farm kind of has me down lately. I feel like I'm getting knocked backwards more than I am even taking baby steps forwards and it frustrates me. And so with my farming heart in that state I ended up on a poem about forests and concrete and England ... and for some reason I was a little renewed and a little more excited about the farm. But, I still don't know what it's all going to look like in six months ...
I guess what I'm really trying to say is that you should read the poem. I don't know if I understand it very well (I think I know what I get out of it at this moment though), but I really enjoy it and I've been reading it a lot. And, I'll ask a similar question to the one I asked after I mentioned this poem for the first time back in February of 2009. What are you reading now? More specifically, are you reading anything that is energizing your passion for the farm?

(As for a farm update ... I'm still messing around with my tractor that has battery/generator/shorting issues ... hopefully sometime I can tell you what the real problem is)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Different Day :: Same Story

Saturday and Sunday were both very similar days. Both days included work at my town job (Saturday at NAPA and Sunday at church), and both days included trips down the road to pick up straw and unloading hay at the farm. The good news is that I now have 47 more bales of hay sitting out in front of the winter lot and that makes me very much relieved! Also, in between unloading the hay I was able to make three trips to bring back the large round bales of straw ... only 5 more to go! I have a sneaky suspicion that I'll have more straw than I need, but I'm not going to complain about that because I'm sure I'll find a use for it. It wasn't all perfect though ... I seem to be having some battery issues with the tractor. Meaning ... the battery died while the tractor was running ... which kind of was no fun! I'll have to look into it ...

All my time on the tractor and doing chores outside did give me plenty of time to think, and today I thought about trucks. Just in my 1.5 mile trips back and forth to get the straw I saw a lot of pick-up trucks sitting in driveways and along the road (deer season). I've decided that I live in some sort of epi-center of trucks. The farmers have them, high school kids have them, and even guys in town that use the truck bed of their truck twice a year have them! I ... I have no truck, but that doesn't mean I'm not trying to find one!

With all the trucks around here you'd think I would be able to get my hands on one that meets all my requirements, but alas I've had no luck. I have an app on my phone that alerts me anytime a 3/4 ton truck is posted on Craigslist in the area (the good ones are always a long ways away) and I check the classifieds for the area all the time. But, I'm just not able to find the right one. I guess I'll just have to be patient ... and wait ... for the right truck ;) But, patience isn't always one of my strong points.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tractors With Cabs ...

Some tractors have climate controlled cabs (heat, a/c, radio, and all that good stuff). My tractor as the beautiful winter air for cab. But, I'm not complaining because I'm just plain glad to have a working tractor at all (even though my PTO is out ... AGAIN!). This morning I was making 1.5 mile trips to pick up some big round bales of straw that I bought. The temperature wasn't very bad and the trip there was actually pretty comfortable, but the return trip with the west wind blowing caused me to hunch up and retreat into my hood like a turtle. My toes were cold though because I wasn't smart enough to put on warm socks!

The good news is that I was able to bring over some more of the straw bales that I purchased for deep bedding (although the deep bedding areas aren't exactly ready yet) and there are now 29 more big round bales of hay on the farm. I'm expecting a few more loads of hay tomorrow and then I think (and hope) there will be enough hay for the winter. I have purchased a lot more hay than I did last year and with all the money I've spent I really really really hope I don't have to buy any more.

My hay purchases this year bring into extreme focus the high costs of starting a grass-fed beef herd. With about a two year turn-around from the time a calf is born until it is processed there is a lot of purchased feed that is needed for both the calf and the cow of course ... and the bull has to be factored in as well because he likes to eat in the winter I'm finding. In the future I would like to be able to make my own hay on farm, but that wasn't possible this year and even if I put up my own hay I have to factor in my labor and equipment prices. In hindsight I'm thinking buying the cattle right at the beginning of the farm wasn't the best plan of attack ...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Another Wednesday ...

Today was another Wednesday ... which means another very busy day. Although, this morning when I was dropping off some parts at one of my favorite stops, the woman who works in the office asked me how I was doing. I responded, "Oh you know ... just another Tuesday". After I said that she informed me that it was actually Wednesday ... the busy day. I don't know if I walked out of the shop glad that it was another day further along in the week than I thought it was, or if I was a little depressed because I really had no clue what day it was. Honestly though, with the new job in town and chores in the dark all the days really seem to blend together.

On the farm things are not going exactly as pleased. I might have 11 Katahdin sheep available if you're interested (and that includes the ram). One thing You should know ... five wires of electric won't keep these rogue sheep in :( I think I'm going to have to order some electric netting from the farm store where I work. I was planning on getting some next spring anyways, but was really hoping to hold off until then. Does anyone have any experience with the electric netting? Any tips or thoughts? I'm almost 100% sure I'll be going with the Gallagher because of the store discount I receive, but I'm open to all thoughts!

I'm hoping everything will come together this week and on Saturday and Sunday I will receive 4 loads of hay totaling 44 large round bales. I was supposed to be getting them about three weeks ago, but it would just never work out. Hopefully this will be the weekend. It will be such a relief to have them here, because I can't tell You how often I think about the fact that I need them while I'm out driving around and seeing hay on other people's farms. I would love to be able to make a little of my own hay next year, but we will have to see how things shake out.

As you can see it is just a little disjointed around the farm right now. I don't expect that to change anytime soon though ;) So, I'll just keep pressing on! It was nice to drop-off a nice load of pork and beef though at the Iowa Food Coop on Monday. Even though I'm not able to make a drop-off at the normal time and talk to other producers and customers it is nice to see some fruit from my labor!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Blizzard Wins ...

I hate to say it, but the blizzard beat me this time and now the cold is trying to rub it in my face. This wasn't a super duper blizzard with an impact that lasts for days, but it was enough snow and wind and drifting to throughly beat me and catch me close to totally unprepared. And now, as if to add insult to injury, the cold is coming behind it with lows expected below zero overnight tonight before it warms up again as the week goes on.

If you have been following the resurgence of my blog lately you will recall that in my last post I was writing about the first official day of winter and how I still had time to get my winter pig area finished up. Well, I had the cold temperatures part correct, but I guess I failed to account for snow and more before the cold arrived. Honestly I haven't been keeping up on the weather much, and with a limited internet connection at the farm and no TV I wasn't really expecting that kind of storm ... everyone else probably was ;)

It does make me think though ... about those first settlers coming to Iowa to start out from scratch. The pioneers! How crazy is it to think of the lives the lived here and the weather that they had to deal with on a day to day business. I've been calling my farming style "Pioneer Farming" because of the way I'm trying to work this farm out of the blank slate that was this 40 acres when I bought it and because of my interest in heritage breeds. But, when it comes to the true pioneer adventure ... well, my adventure pales in comparison ... I mean I at least have a five day forecast ;)

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Winter Pig Area ...

Technically it is not winter until December, 21st. Which means I still have plenty of time to get my "winter" pig area done! The only problem of course is that technical winter and the realities of winter don't always meet up on the same day. The forecast that has lows at -2ºF this coming week means that winter is probably already here no matter what the calendar says. But, I'm sticking with the 21st and hoping to have everything squared away by then ... at least that is the plan for now.

There is good news though. The good news is that I think I finally have a plan for my winter pig area. In fact it is a plan for now and a plan for growth in the future. One thing that I have learned over the past two winters on the farm with pigs is that they aren't particularly interested in roaming around a lot in the winter. Basically they like to huddle up somewhere warm, eat, and drink. With that knowledge in hand I realized that the winter area did not need to be an extravagantly large area, but rather a nice place for them to stay warm and dry.

So, what I've come up with is a location on the north side of my shed. I have moved in my 8'x16' portable hut for the grower pigs and I'm starting to get the fence up on the outside (subscribe to my Twitter account if you want a glimpse into my farming life). I chose this location because it is a high point and will stay drain well in the freeze and thaw of a southern Iowa winter and because it fits in with a larger idea that I had today.

There is a part of me that would like to experiment with a yearly paddock rotation with some of the breeding stock instead of having them in the woods. Basically I'd like to include a crop rotation into the paddock rotation. It's something to try at least, and with that in mind I decided that this was a good area to build some smaller winter pig lots where I can eventually put an automatic waterer. I'll have two separate winter pens with the water in the fence line. Then in the summer I can open a gate to the larger pasture area and the pigs will have access to those same waterers I use in the winter.

That's my idea at least ... right now I'm just focusing on putting in fence posts and making a secure area for the pigs. Remember ... I only need to have it done by December, 21st in order to beat winter ;)

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Fighting (For?) the Farm ...

I came to a realization today as I was driving around in my little NAPA minivan delivering parts to fix the broken cars of the world. That realization was that sometimes I get frustrated and most often it is the farm that frustrates me. When I get back to the farm after 6:15 PM on most nights (and much later each Sunday, Wednesday, and some Tuesdays) I often feel overwhelmed by the chores that need to be done ... let alone the things that I would like or need to do in order to keep the farm running somewhat smoothly (things like fixing fence, adding water systems, finding a place for the pigs to live this winter). Please understand that I don't say this to complain because I realize my plate is no more full than the next person and I have so much more to be thankful for, but I do often wonder if I'm "Fighting the Farm" or "Fighting For the Farm" if you get what I mean.

There are many times when I look around the farm (lately it's pretty dark when that happens) and the thought pops into my mind, "I could sell the pigs, sell the cattle, sell the sheep, sell most of the equipment, and just keep a few chickens to laugh at (and a pig to kick ... name that movie). Then when I came home from town I could walk into the house and "relax". It all seems very easy actually ... just liquidate it all and chalk it up to one of my grand adventures and passing fancies. Then I would no longer have to be "Fighting the Farm". And I wonder, should I even be "Fighting the Farm"? Is it worth it? Is it the right course for me? Is it even worth doing?

On the other hand there are times when I realize that I am "Fighting For the Farm". Most of these times don't happen while I'm outside in my cold weather clothes and a headlamp fixing an electric fence that the sheep decided wasn't good enough and feeding the pigs in the dark. My "Fighting For the Farm" moments usually happen when I'm making a delivery to customers in Des Moines, taking a couple hogs to the processor, or thinking about the future of the farm.

The difficulty and the goal is to have more "Fighting For" moments than "Fighting" moments. I've decided this can happen in a couple of different ways. The most obvious way is to focus on what is possible and what I can accomplish ...

**I started writing this post a couple weeks ago and never finished it. As I was working on a post for today I came across this one and as I read over it I thought it would be a good idea to just post it as is ... I'm not sure that I really completed my thoughts on it or that I can draw them to a close right now, but it is a fairly accurate snapshot of my mind ... at least on that particular night. So ... I'll post it ... it's kind of like my full disclosure post ... to show that I get frustrated with the farm, and still press on ;)

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Frozen ...

Last night was one of the coldest on the farm this season. I'm not sure exactly how cold it was, but I know it was in the single digits ... And, I know it was cold because the hose was frozen tonight when I went to water the animals! I thought I had done a good enough job draining the hose last night, but I guess that I either had a pocket of water in the second hose (because the first in the chain of hoses was flowing fine) or I was a little too slow in draining it and it froze up around the end before I got that far. I guess it doesn't really matter why it froze ... because it was froze and I had to work around that issue!

Since the hose was frozen I had to go with the back-up plan which included a couple of 5 gallon buckets and a walking back and forth me! Even by brining the hose into the house it wouldn't thaw out in time and I needed to get water to the animals so buckets it was. The thing about using buckets is that roughly ten gallons at a time isn't enough for the cows. They can have that all gone by the time I get back so for the first 10 or 20 trips (I made a lot of trips) it was just getting enough there for them to drink. It is nice to see that they have a nice system worked out for getting water though. Basically it goes from biggest to smallest with the sheep all hanging out together until it is just the littlest calves at the water tank.

The good news on the frozen hose front is that it is supposed to warm up the next couple of days, so I'll get that all taken care of and be back in business! I just need to make sure I'm staying on top of things and getting it all drained out. In completely and totally unrelated news I think I am finally ready to make the jump into the world of trucks!

In the past I have written about wanting or thinking about getting a truck many times, and each time there is usually someone who is surprised that I've been farming without a truck for this long. Well, I'm not sure if I want to farm without one any longer and I'm ready to get rid of the Expedition and step into a truck ... a cheap truck ... an inexpensive truck ... a reasonably priced truck ... You know ... one closer to $3,000 than $5,000!

I do have a couple requirements though. It needs to be a 3/4 ton truck and it needs to be four wheel drive. Other than that I'm pretty open. Ideally it would be a long bed and an extended cab, but I don't think that is going to happen in my price range. So, what are your thoughts on a truck that will be for the farm and for my daily driver. If you could only have one (long bed or extended cab) what would you choose? I would love your input ... and if you have one for sale let me know ;)

Friday, December 03, 2010

The Best Case vs. The Reality

It's interesting ... last night when I was watering the cows they were just going nuts jostling each other and trying to get at the water. Tonight ... I called them over ... they looked at the water and then walked away! Oh well, I filled them up and it's not super cold so hopefully I just have to break a skim of ice in the morning and then they'll get their fill for the day. The pigs on the other hand are being a bit more difficult ... they like to tip over anything that isn't attached to the ground or a post and then they'll try to tip those things over too!

The comments in yesterdays post had me thinking today. They had me thinking about the best case scenario versus the reality of the farm. The suggestions in the comments are the best case scenario. It would be the absolute best to install an energy frost free waterer. In fact I have even been researching it and have picked out a Cobett waterer. In order to install that waterer I would need to trench in a line and tie it in to the main water line from the road. Of course to do that I would need to dig a deep hole for the waterer and a bigger hole where the connection to the main line would be. I would also need to have some gravel delivered or pick some up to put around the waterer ... and I'd need to get a plumber out here to help me because I have a lot to learn along those lines!

In order to do all that I would have to order the waterer (not a big deal because they are made relatively close by). Then I would need to get a trencher out here (also not a major deal because I can borrow one from the farm store where I work for no charge). After that I would need to dig the big holes (I could dig them by hand or go through the expense of renting or hiring an excavator). Finally it would all need to be hooked up, installed, and the gravel placed around the waterer.

The waterer would cost around $650 or so I'm thinking. I have no idea how much the gravel and 200 feet or so of water line would cost, but I know that it wouldn't be a deal breaker. Things do get tricky though once I start thinking about the cost of the excavator, but even that isn't insurmountable. Nope ... the real problem is time! My time is very limited and that's why I don't see the installation of the waterer a real possibility now even if it's what I want and it is the best solution.

I had also hoped to install an heated pig drink at the same time which would require some concrete, more trenching, more water line, and of course electricity out to the location (and the shed because it's along the way). On the flip side ... if I go with my temporary plan for the cattle, sheep, and pigs it would entail one galvanized tank with drinks for the pigs, one bigger tank for the cattle and sheep, and of course the heaters and extension cords. That will probably cost over $500 as well! And, after this winter it would still be my hope to do the more permanent option.

So, there is the dilemma ... the best case is obvious and even not a ton more in the expense department when you compare the two. But, the reality is that doing that job takes time and time is something that must be prioritized on my farm. The general chores need to come first and sometimes (especially with a couple of town jobs and short days) that doesn't leave time for the best case. I'm going to try to make the reality work out as best as possible though!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Winter :: Livestock :: Water

Today wasn't so bad weather wise (it would have been great if I would have had the day off of the farm). The temps got up near 40ºF and there wasn't much wind to speak of. It appears that the 10 rogue sheep decided to enjoy the fine day as well ... I can tell by the nice white hair they leave behind on the wires as the make their way back and forth! Oh well, I'll have to figure out something with them ... but right now it is not one of my top priorities.

This evenings chores were pretty uneventful, although the cattle were a little pushy around the water tanks as I was filling them. The pigs were as well and it brought into clear focus that I need to figure out something for winter watering now that I have a greater number of livestock on the farm. I had grand dreams of installing an energy free water system for the cattle and the sheep as well as a permanent heated waterer for the pigs. But, it is December 2nd and I don't see that happening this year even though I want it very badly!

So, now I'm onto plan B ... or C ... or D ... or whatever I'm at! I have an idea for the pigs ... I could get a galvanized tank waterer with a hog drink on each side and put a heater (or two because the only two drink ones at work are 6 or 8 feet long) in it. Then I could put it on the dividing fence between my sows/boar and the growers. I would still have to stretch a hose out a long ways to fill it, but I wouldn't have to do that as often. The downsides of course are the expense of buying the tank and heaters and the electricity needed to run it! But, the upside is the time savings ... I'm seriously considering this option.

The cattle and sheep ... I guess that option is similar as well. Like I said, going this route wasn't my first option, but for the time available to get things set-up and considering the time savings throughout the winter I think it is my best option.

First Day of December

Today was Wednesday, which means it was one of my busier days of the week because I have both town jobs in full force on Wednesdays and I don't make it back to the farm until very late ... which means late night chores. I will say that there is a little something I enjoy about the crisp air of a dark December night even if it makes chores a little more interesting. Tonight included the basics of taking care of the animals and checking up on them. Since I'm not around very much during the daylight I do try to take the four-wheeler out each not and get a good idea of how everyone is faring. Tonight that meant waking the sheep up ;)

Speaking of the sheep, there was a question about what my thoughts are now that they have been on the farm for a while. While I wish I had a better answer I think I have to be honest and just say I'm not quite sure yet. They came onto the farm late in the growing season for my mostly warm season grasses so I didn't get to graze them very long and see how they would fit into the rotation. Also, there are about 10 of them that don't mind disregarding my interior (portable or semi-permanent) fences. They never really caused a problem getting out, but I can see where some electric netting may come in handy next year. On the plus side they are fun to watch and I love the flocking instincts of the Katahadins! I'm hoping their addition will also be a plus in marketing and adding diversity to the products.

As I mentioned on Twitter today (check out my Twitter feed) I was listening to the Nature's Harmony Farm podcast again today ... specifically the one about "The Death of a Farm" (I blogged about it awhile ago). This is the second or third time I've listened to this interview and I believe it is both discouraging and encouraging at the same time. It is always hard to hear about someone having to quit almost exactly what you're trying to start, but I think you can also learn and grow from those experiences as well. I'm hoping to grow and not be discouraged!

Don't forget ... You too can support Crooked Gap Farm no matter where you are in the country (or world) by ordering a Crooked Gap Farm t-shirt. There are two options available and I hear they make great Christmas gifts ;) Just drop me an e-mail if you would like to place an order.
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