Monday, April 29, 2013

I'm ferpused . . .

My mom used to say that she was ferpused when she was very worn out after a busy day.  I have no idea where the word came from, and I am probably not spelling it correctly, but there you have it.  Today, this evening, I am ferpused.

We have had some greenhouse problems - the winter lettuce hogged space that was sorely needed for plant starts, and the temperature was never right - either too hot for the lettuce or too cold for the pepper starts.  Today, I looked around and told Steve that we needed to play catch-up and fast, or we were really going to feel the revenue pinch.  Steve started hauling out flats of lettuce that could be transplanted in the garden.  I grabbed seedling trays and started planting - the end of April, and I'm planting!

I went over all of the poorly germinated trays of peppers and tomatoes and had Steve pot up anything that was worth salvaging.  I continued to plant - and plant - and plant.  I finally quit a few minutes ago, having planted about 1,600 seeds.

Like I said, I'm ferpused.  I just hope that they will germinate and grow fast enough to profit from the late plant market.  These will be nice and fresh at a time when most of the vendors' plants are looking tired and leggy.  I can hope.

Early to bed tonight.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

What's happening on the farm . . .

My son Jim is going in on the beef cattle.  He has come up twice now to help with the operation.  Today they pulled wire for the first of four paddocks for the whole herd.  There is still a lot of work to be done, but at least we can get them off of the dairy cows' paddocks.  We need every paddock for the dairy herd, because we are about out of hay, and the pastures are nearly a month behind schedule.  At last, they are greening up, but the grass is still short.  When the grass is short, the cows get a smaller mouthful of grass with every bite.  Diary cows need good feed pretty much continuously to provide milk.

We need a few days in a row of sunshine and some warm weather.  I hope the forecast is correct - we have two days of 80ยบ weather coming this week according to Weather Underground.

Did you know that if every farmer farmed the way we do, they would stop global warming?   Being raised outside on grass, not grain means that the animals are sequestering carbon all of the time.  Their hooves tear up the land (no tilling necessary) and of course they are dropping loads of manure and urine on the soil.  This means that they help to recover marginal land, such as the sandy soil I have here on my farm.  There are a couple of books out there now on the subject.  More and more farmers are starting to use rotational grazing.  It is cheaper, too.  And the meat is healthier for us.  Is there a down side?  I suppose, because it uses a lot of land, but if you put them on marginal land that wasn't good for raising any crops without using massive amounts of chemical fertilizers and weed killers (poor soil grows a lot of weeds), then I don't even see that as a downside.

The farmer who sold us the Highland cattle said they are very good foragers, and they will love all of the little small trees that are dotting the east side of my farm.  That land has just been sitting there unused and ungrazed since 2001.  This is what the paddock looks like today.  I am hoping to see lush green grass free of trees in a month!

Pasture today - lots of small trees for fodder!

Jim and Steve adding insulators to the T-posts

Jim and Steve got three strands of wire strung, and all of the insulators put on the posts.  The Highlands are not quite as docile as the dairy cattle, and so they need stronger containment.

Steve cut trees to make our corner posts.

Jim, Steve and Tashi surveying the job.

They strung the three rolls of wire on a spindle.  Clever!

Getting started with the insulators.

Steve explaining best practices to Jim.

Jim setting off to begin the job.

He's getting the hang of it.

The finished product.  Job well done!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Update on Blackie

Well, we almost lost Blackie.  We had to get two bottles of iv fluid.  She was even worse after the first one, on her side, eyes rolled back.  I was at market, and every time my cell phone rang I prayed the news would be better, instead of worse and worse and worse!  About two thirds of the way through the second iv, she finally lifted her head. 

She still would not get up.  I told the guys they had to get her standing.  She had been down close to 12 hours.  Steve said he had a winch, and Kim had some straps.  They each went home to get them.  When Steve got back, Blackie was standing.

All appears to be well.  She is milking heavily.  No more signs of milk fever.  She is getting free choice calcium.  I am hoping that the crisis has passed.  I love that old girl.

I'm tired.

It has been a rugged spring.  Steve is doing most of the physical work, but the paperwork has been pretty rough.  Garden orders, new brochures for our CSA for 2013, billing, meeting with new outlets for our products, looking for cattle for our new beef operation, arranging for butchering the pigs, selling everything that we are growing around here.

Milk production is up.  This means making Cheddar cheese, probably every other week.  I started Sunday morning at 4:30 a.m. because the WDHA shareholders were here Sunday to stir BD-500 and apply it to the soil and I wanted to be done by the time they got here.  Read more about that whole process here.  Making and spreading BD-500   It is the only fertilizer we use on the land here.  We had a great turnout, never have had more people at a stirring.  We had back-up stirrers to give people a break, and there were so many here that I think we had the stuff applied to the whole farm within 45 minutes.  And the weather cooperated.  We had a "slice of nice" on Sunday, and it is about time!!!

Yesterday I went to look at four fields that I am going to lease and put under my organic certification so that we have really nice local organic hay and straw for the coming season.  The farmer is happy to have me do this.  If he wants to certify his whole farm, I will have done most of the work for him already.  He has a bunch of small farms, 30 acres here, 50 there, is very shrewd, and he hates Monsanto, GMOs and chemicals.  He knows where the market is going, and is looking forward to working with me on this, but it will require a lot of paperwork.

You know, I really do hate paperwork.  So why has my life become one big pile of papers?  Well, time to get back at them.  Hope you have a great day. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Blackie has some post-partum problems

The milker called me this morning.  Blackie is down.  I went out to the barn and gave her a calcium drench, plus a glycerin drench.  Kim gave her a Vitamin B12 shot yesterday, will give her another this morning, plus a good shot of Vitamin C.

She had trouble calving.  Kim said the head and one foreleg were out.  He had to push the head back in, find the other foreleg and pull the calf.  That is stressful for the cow, and it probably contributed to her illness.

Hopefully all will be well.  Blackie is a good girl, throws beautiful animals.  Too bad she didn't have a heifer, but Ebony, her heifer from last year, is a beautiful yearling and will be joining the milking herd next spring.

If you are so inclined, send out prayers, positive energy, light a candle, for our beautiful Blackie.

Update:  Blackie is doing great, as is her calf, Big Ben.  And he is BIG!  He is nearly as big as Scrappy, who is two months old.  No wonder Blackie had such a problem.  Poor thing.  But all is well now.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Our road trip to see the Highlands . . .

Our road trip to see the Highlands . . .to see Highland cows, that is.

Their names are Cassandra and Naomi.  They are six and eight years old, respectively.  We are leaning pretty hard on getting them, but just doing some more number crunching to make sure that all three of us are happy with the results.

Steve sent me a picture, since I didn't have my smart phone with me when we went to meet the girls.  Hoping they will be joining us soon.

On another note, Blackie had a calf this morning.  Another bull.  Steve and I hope to buy it, which would make two certified organic calves in our growing herd.  Here are pics of the new calf, as yet unnamed, and Scrappy, born February 5, 2013.

Blackie's calf, born this morning April 8

Blackie and Baby Bull
Scrappy, getting big!!  Born February 5.

Scrappy, always eating.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The menagerie may be growing!

Today, Steve (the farm manager) and I are meeting my son at a farm near Warsaw, IN.  We are looking at Scottish Highland cattle.  Our intention is to buy a couple of pregnant cows (they must live here on my organic farm for at least three months prior to birth of their calves in order for the calves to be certified organic) as well as some Highland-Maine Anjou cross feeder cattle.  The restaurant will take beef from us that is not certified organic so long as they are finished here for three to six months, grass fed only.  Of course, they expect us to transition to all certified organic, which is our intention.

This foray into feeder cattle will put me in a position to have enough revenue from the farm to keep it.  While I am not wild about the work associated with the farm, even with Steve doing the bulk of the labor, there is a part of me that is very relieved about keeping the farm.

First, my dad always said, "God isn't making any more dirt."  Once you own a farm, you do everything you can to keep it.  Second, where will I get food I can trust if I am not raising it myself?  I confess, I am a foodie, more than a bit obsessed about eating right.  Here is what my farm offers.
  1. Chickens that are truly free to scratch for bugs, to eat sand for their grit instead of packaged oyster shell, eating feed from an organic mill that makes my feed to order, with no soy.
  2. Pigs that have been given nothing but organic pig feed (same mill) from the day of their birth, and a breed that has superior marbling to the meat.  Pork can be a challenge to cook without it being dry, but Berkshires are excellent, well marbled with fat - some call it the Kobe beef of the pork world.
  3. Certified organic greenhouse plants - organic potting soil, organic seeds, grown in a certified organic greenhouse.  Where will I get these if not from here?  They are just impossible to find!!
  4. Certified organic garden produce - everything from spring's tender lettuces, crisp radishes and sharp green onions to high summer's tomatoes (all heirloom, of course) and peppers, and then the final sighs from a garden that continues to yield hearty greens well into December most years.  And of course the garden beans - who can consider it a real summer without garden beans? and turnips? and beets? and rutabaga? and POTATOES?  We are growing 15 different kinds of potatoes this year.
Well, this dirt is going to stay in the family, and I am delighted that my son is considering becoming a part of it.

Heirloom Tomatoes

Winter squash

Russian Kale

Summer Squash run amok!
Chickens roosting

New calf means more milk!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The river house project

Today the junk man comes into the river house to remove the last of anything with metal.  So that is the end of the furnace, the air conditioner, the laundry chute, the last of the duct work and the water heater.  He is also taking the accumulated metal pipes that Cole put into the garage.  On Monday, the crew will start on removing the chimney.

And then, finally, the rebuilding will start.  Hooray!  We are turning the corner!!

I got the final prints on Saturday.  I wrote earlier in March about the fiasco of a "friend" helping out by coming in without my permission to add furring strips to the wall studs so that I could increase the amount of insulation I could put in.  I had already decided I didn't want to do that, but he bought the wood and set Cole to the task behind my back, I guess because he thought he knew best.

Well, the numbers are in - and the furring strips are coming out!  Even with the friend contributing the wood (I wasn't buying what I didn't order), the extra cost of insulation would have been $258; the extensions for the five existing windows that we are keeping is $150 per window ($750); the new windows and exterior doors would all have been slightly more expensive, maybe $20 each for a total of $200.  So we are at more than $1,200 without any extra labor, and the savings on heat per year is only $9.80.  Here is the calculator I used.  Savings Calculator for heat costs  Yes, I am moving to the town with the lowest fuel bills in the whole state, so I wasn't getting much of a return for the extra insulation, but at double the savings, it still isn't a good idea.  $1,200 divided by $9.80 means it would take 122 years to get my money back, without considering the time value of money, and with no cost for the furring strips and Cole's labor to attach them.  I am 71 years old.  I'm in good health, but I'm betting that I'm not going to live to be 193.

I think it is just a man thing - or anyway, men of a certain generation.  They think they know best, even when they don't.  I am still a bit corked about the whole thing - can you tell? - but at least the figures provide overwhelming proof that I am doing the right thing.  My existing 4" studs will be just fine, and with new insulation will provide plenty of warmth in my new house.