May 2014


I think I mentioned this earlier, spring is a busy time of year on a farm.  Exciting and busy.  It’s funny how we go from winter to spring, not busy to very busy.

What happened in May?  It was a big month for us.  We bought 3 Hereford cows!  2 of these will be our breeding stock, the 3rd is for beef.  She is not good breeding material due to a twist of her spine.  Her previous owner named her Twister.  Names, we need names.  They have ear tags, 215, 227, and 228.  We need names for 215 and 228.

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Here they are eating some organic kelp (their mineral source).  What should we name them?  Sue and Moo?  They are girls and we hope to have them for 10+ yrs.

We had our first open farm and I’d say it was a success.  We met a bunch of neighbors, gave a bunch of tours, and sold a bunch of pork.  It was a good way to spend the day.

Our gardens are in, almost in their entirety!  Lots of digging, pitchforking, digging, raking, and calluses.  This year we are putting a big emphasis on winter squash.  Things we can store that we can eat and the animal can eat them too.  Lots of tomatoes, chilis, beans, peas, turnips, carrots…  We missed the asparagus harvest on our farm.  If you don’t know where they are, it’s hard to find them.  Now they’ve gone to seed and they’re easy to find now.  Next spring we hope to get a bunch of fresh wild asparagus off our farm.

Our chicks went out to pasture.  Normally this happens at about 3 weeks of age, but we were in the midst of a cold spell and they were almost 4 weeks old by the time they went out.  The broilers and turkeys are doing great.  Our layers and pullets are getting along, but there is stress out there.  The layers have pretty much stopped laying.  Grrr.

Broilers and turkeys together, at least of a few weeks.

Broilers and turkeys together, at least of a few weeks.

We are doing the broilers differently this year.  Last year we had 2 significant predator events.  So I put the birds in a bit of electric netting.  The netting keeps the birds in and the 4 footed predators out.  Since they have the netting for protection, they don’t need walls on their pen.  So you can see the simple shelter I made them.  It’s on skis, so I can pull it around the pasture really easily.  They get moved everyday so their poop spreads out and fertilizes the pasture.  So far it’s been working great.  The birds are a bit of an easy target for hawks and owls.  But I don’t think we’ve lost any yet, they do keep an eye out and when one flies by then all run under the roof.

Overall, a very positive month for us.


Piglets are coming, want one?

We have several piglets coming on June 15.  These are Berkshire pigs, a heritage breed with the reputation of having the best tasting pork.  We raised these pigs last summer and really enjoyed them.  They ate grass, didn’t dig to much, and were very friendly and strong.

Interested in some fall pork?  Let us know.  The cost should be about $1.30 per pound on the hoof.  Meaning a 230 lb pig will sell for about $300.  Processing costs will be in addition to this.

Support your local grass based farmer…

Michigan Firm Recalls Ground Beef Products Due To Possible E. Coli O157:H7

WASHINGTON, May, 19, 2014 – Wolverine Packing Company, a Detroit, Mich. establishment, is recalling approximately 1.8 million pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The ground beef products were produced between March 31, 2014 and April 18, 2014. For a full list of products that were recalled please see the attached document.

The products subject to recall bear the establishment number “EST. 2574B” and will have a production date code in the format “Packing Nos: MM DD 14” between “03 31 14” and “04 18 14”. These products were shipped to distributors for restaurant use in Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio. There was no distribution of the products to the Department of Defense, the National School Lunch Program, or catalog/internet sales.

Did you know grass fed, pastured beef does not have E. coli?  Neither do our chickens.  This E. coli phenomena is a product of our large factory confinement farms.

The latest addition to our farm…

We bought 3 cows on May 14.  2 of them are our breeding stock for future years, the other is actually owned by Emily’s sister’s family for fall beef.  Not the best picture, but here they are:

3 new Hereford's

3 new Hereford’s

Our Jersey steers are pretty happy about it.  The cows are still arguing, working on deciding who is the boss around here.

Our jersey steers

Our jersey steers

The jersey’s were getting a little bored, here they are killing time chewing on each others ear:

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If you’ve ever been licked by a cow, you know how raspy and slimy those mouths are.  Yuk.

Open Farm!

This winter we decided that we should do an open farm.  What starts out as an innocent idea turns in to a lot of work.  But it will be a lot of fun.

Our open farm will be Sunday, May 18 from noon to 5 PM.  This is a family friendly event, but please no dogs and the kids have to be under control; our electric fence will be on.

We are an organic farm growing veggies and grass fed and pastured meats and eggs. We are not certified organic, we might not ever be- we call it ‘beyond organic’.

Our farm is not a bunch of inviduals, our animals work as a team. It starts with the cows eating the grass. We rotationally graze the cattle, they get fresh greens everyday, while the area they were just on gets to recuperate from the grazing, stomping, and manuring.

After a few days the laying hens come through where that cattle were. Flies have been laying eggs in the cow pies, now the hens scratch through the cow pies for fly larvae. Free food for the hens plus the hens harrow the cow pies into the soil. The chickens will also eat any parasites the cows might be carrying.

The broiler chickens get fresh pasture twice a day. They eat grass and insects, depositing large amounts of fertilizer as they go. This is a big source of fertilizer for our pasture.

We also raise pigs. We don’t have any now, they’ll be here in about a month. Our pigs are raised on pasture. They eat grass, clover, and alfalfa and dig up bindweed roots. Based on this past winters pig experience, we might put an emphasis on raising pigs through the winter here. Our soil is clay. Pigs will gladly root up the grass so they can eat the roots. In the process they will work in and organic material we have around. Old hay, leaves, feathers… We can then go in behind the pigs and reseed the pasture with better feeds.

It’s all a system here. It works on a small scale like this, but it will also work on a bigger scale. It is more work managing it all, but notice we have no tractors, plows, or artificial fertilizers.

Guineas and other animals…

Last summer we had a lot of grasshoppers and crickets on the farm. They eat the grass, but we have excess grass around here since we don’t have enough animals to eat it. Anyway we also have a lot of spiders, black widows to be specific.

Yup, black widows. Most of the time we find them on our back porch hanging out in corners. Every once in awhile we find them in the house. This is getting serious.

We are trying to be an organic ranch. But black widow spiders in the house?

So last fall we got 5 guineas fowl. They were about 2 months old at the time

5 guineas getting used to their new barn.

5 guinea chicks (keets) getting used to their new barn.

Guineas are predators, they eat insects and the occassional mouse or snake. And unlike chickens, they’re also good at not eating vegetables. So these birds have a job, it’s called eating grasshoppers, crickets, and black widow spiders. And not eating our veggies.

In Dec 2013 we had that ‘polar vortex’ and it got cold; -10F or so. The guineas had a nice spot to live in the barn, and they were well accustomed to at spot. However when the cold weather came we allowed with goats and cattle access to the barn. The guineas were not accustomed to their new house mates and took to the trees at 10 below zero. 3 of them disappeared over a few weeks. It was probably owls that got them, while there were sleeping.

So we’re down to 2, luckily a male and female.

The guineas and their window.  This is actually a pig shelter, unused at the moment.

The guineas and their window. This is actually a pig shelter, unused at the moment.

Now the weather is getting warmer and you’d think the birds would be out hunting insects (the guineas are completely free range). But they’re not. We have an old pickup canopy in the pasture that is normally the pigs shelter. One window is left on this canopy and the guineas spend about 90% of the day looking at their reflection in the window. Not eating, not drinking, not hunting, not procrating. Just admiring their reflection. Grrr.

We really like having these birds around. They’re goofy, polka dotted with a funny helmet and gas mask on their head. But they have a job to do. Eat insects.

Life on a farm for an animal is all about jobs. Sometimes it’s just eat and get big. Or eat and lay an egg. Right now we have 2 cattle, soon to be 4. For the time being their job is to eat and get big. That’s it, pretty simple. Our laying hens have to lay 4-5 eggs a week each. Our turkeys need to eat and get big, same with our broilers. Not a bad life. We give them all of the food, water, and shelter they need and they get to spend the rest of the day socializing in their own way. Our dog Joe is borderline here. He’s old and fat, his job is to lay there and be nice. But it’s amazing, while he looks like he is just laying there, he is keeping his eye on the pasture looking for fox and deer. He’s pretty good at spotting the fox. But he’s too old to run or fight, so he just barks. Better than nothing. Speaking of nothing, our cat does not have a job- except don’t eat the chicks. She is not a farm cat and has no interest in the chicks, so we can’t complain about that.

Back to the guineas. Start doing your job.


Here is a bit about hugelkulture taken from this page on, please go to that page to see a lot more pictures.  My intent with publishing this is not plagiarism, it’s spreading the word about really cool things that work, don’t cost anything, and make our world a better place.  And of course giving credit to the original author of this page.

hugelkultur: the ultimate raised garden beds

raised garden beds hugelkultur logs and soil after one month
raised garden bed hugelkultur after one month
raised garden bed hugelkultur after one year
raised garden beds after two years
raised garden bed hugelkultur after two years

raised garden beds hugelkultur after twenty years

raised garden bed hugelkultur after twenty years

hugelkultur raised garden beds in a nutshell:

      • grow a typical garden without irrigation or fertilization
      • has been demonstrated to work in deserts as well as backyards
      • use up rotting wood, twigs, branches and even whole trees that would otherwise go to the dump or be burned
      • it is pretty much nothing more than buried wood
      • can be flush with the ground, although raised garden beds are typically better
      • can start small, and be added to later
      • can always be small – although bigger is better
      • You can save the world from global warming by doing carbon sequestration in your own back yard!
      • perfect for places that have had trees blown over by storms
      • can help end world hunger
      • give a gift to your future self

the verbose details about hugelkultur raised garden beds

It’s a german word and some people can say it all german-ish. I’m an american doofus, so I say “hoogle culture”. I had to spend some time with google to find the right spelling. Hugal, hoogal, huegal, hugel …. And I really like saying it out loud: “hugelkultur, hoogle culture, hoogal kulture ….” – it could be a chant or something.

I learned this high-falootin word at my permaculture training. I also saw it demonstrated on the Sepp Holzer terraces and raised beds video – he didn’t call it hugelkultur, but he was doing it.

Hugelkultur is nothing more than making raised garden beds filled with rotten wood. This makes for raised garden beds loaded with organicmaterial, nutrients, air pockets for the roots of what you plant, etc. As the years pass, the deep soil of your raised garden bed becomes incredibly rich and loaded with soil life. As the wood shrinks, it makes more tiny air pockets – so your hugelkultur becomes sort of self tilling. The first few years, the composting process will slightly warm your soil giving you a slightly longer growing season. The woody matter helps to keep nutrient excess from passing into the ground water – and then refeeding that to your garden plants later. Plus, by holding SO much water, hugelkultur could be part of a system for growing garden crops in the desert with no irrigation.

I do think there are some considerations to keep in mind. For example, I don’t think I would use cedar. Cedar lasts so long because it is loaded with natural pesticides/herbicides/anti-fungal/anti-microbial (remember, good soil has lots of fungal and microbial stuff). Not a good mix fortomatoes or melons, eh? Black locust, black cherry, black walnut? These woods have issues. Black locust won’t rot – I think because it is so dense. Black walnut is very toxic to most plants, and cherry is toxic to animals, but it might be okay when it rots – but I wouldn’t use it until I had done the research. Known excellent woods are: aldersapplecottonwoodpoplar, willow (dry) and birch. I suspect maples would be really good too, but am not certain. Super rotten wood is better than slightly aged wood. The best woods are even better when they have been cut the same day (this allows you to “seed” the wood with your choice of fungus – shitake mushrooms perhaps?).

Another thing to keep in mind is that wood is high in carbon and will consume nitrogen to do the compost thing. This could lock up the nitrogen and take it away from your growies. But well rotted wood doesn’t do this so much. If the wood is far enough along, it may have already taken in sooooo much nitrogen, that it is now putting it out!

Pine and fir will have some levels of tanins in them, but I’m guessing that most of that will be gone when the wood has been dead for a few years.

In the drawings at right, the artist is trying to show that while the wood decomposes and shrinks, the leaves, duff and accumulating organic matter from above will take it’s place. The artist is showing the new organic matter as a dark green.

raised garden beds on top of sod
raised garden beds on top of sod – the soil comes from somewhere else
raised garden beds dug in a bit
raised garden beds dug in a bit – note the sod is put upside down on the wood
and the topsoil is on top of that
raised garden beds plus deep paths
raised garden beds dug in a bit – plus paths are dug on the sides and
that sod/soil goes on top too

I find I most often build hugelkultur in places where the soil is shallow. So I end up finding excess soil from somewhere else on the property and piling it on some logs. Presto! Instant raised garden beds! This is usually the easiest/fastest way too. Especially if you have earth moving equipment.

For those times that the soil is deep and you are moving the soil by hand, I like to dig up the sod and dig down a foot or two. Then pile in the wood. Then put the sod on top of the wood, upside-down. Then pile the topsoil on top of that. Even better is to figure out where the paths will be, and dig down there too. Add two layers of sod onto the logs and then the double topsoil.

I have discovered that a lot of people are uncomfortable with the idea of raised bed gardens. They have seen the large flat gardens for years and are sure this is the way to do it. Some people are okay with raised beds that are three to six inches tall – they consider anything taller than that unsightly.

So this is gonna sound crazy, but I hope to convince you that the crazy-sounding stuff is worth it.

If you build your hugelkultur raised garden beds tall enough, you won’t have to irrigate. At all (after the second year). No hoses. No drip system. Anything shorter won’t require as much irrigation – so there is still some benefit. Imagine going on vacation in the summer without having to hire somebody to kill water your garden! As a further bonus, the flavor of everything you grow will be far better!

To go all summer long without a drop of rain, you need to build your hugelkultur raised bed gardens …. six feet tall. But they’ll shrink! Mostly in the first month. Which is why I suggest you actually build them seven feet tall.

Hugelkultur raised garden beds can be built just two feet tall and will hold moisture for about three weeks. Not quite as good, but more within the comfort zone of many people – including urban neighbors.

Some people will start out with hugelkultur raised garden beds that are two and a half feet tall and plant only annuals. And each year they will build the size of the bed a foot. So that after a few years, they will have the bigger beds and the neighbors never really noticed. And if they’ve tasted what comes from it – they might be all for it without caring about the big mounds.

Besides, isn’t this much better use of the wood than hauling it to the dump, or chipping it, or putting it in those big city bins for yard waste?

raised garden bedsstandard hugelkultur raised garden beds raised garden bedsnarrower hugelkultur raised garden beds raised garden bedspeaked hugelkultur raised garden beds raised garden bedshugelkultur raised garden beds with a stone border raised garden bedshugelkultur raised garden beds with a log border

I usually build hugelkulture raised garden beds about five feet wide. This makes for some mighty steep beds. Just pack that soil on tight and plant it with a mix of heavy rooted plants to hold it all together. Quick! Before it rains! If you are going to build beds shorter than three feet tall, I suggest that you make the beds no wider than four feet wide. Unless you are doing keyhole style raised garden beds, in which case you should be able to get away with something wider.

Organic lawn care

Well this isn’t directly related to our farm, but just about all of us Americans have a bit of lawn to tend.  Interested in doing the same thing but differently?  Check out this page.

This site is affiliated with, a permaculture website.  What’s permaculture?  Good question, it’s kind of hard to define- like sustainability.  Think of it as companion planting, letting animals do work for you, and designing your yard/farm/village the way nature would want you to- all rolled in to one.  Interested?  Maybe the best way to describe it is hugelculture.  I first read about this in early spring 2013.  Immediately I thought “Duh, of course!”.  So I built one.

Here is the page where I first learned of hugelculture.  I also have a post on this website about hugelculture, but it’s mostly copied and pasted from that page.

April 2014

As usual at this time of year, things are starting to get busy.  It’s also an exciting time of year to be a farmer.  Farmers all over are looking to buy animals, sell animals, and get things growing.  Our irrigation season officially started on the 15th.  It’s a good thing, the grass was getting thirsty and the animals were getting hungry.  However it’s just one more chore to add to a busy schedule.

Our goat Cedar kidded to twins on Apr 4.  She did this mid-day, when both of us were home, and did it on her own without assistance.  Much better than doing it in the middle of the night in a freezing rain storm.  Alas, a few weeks later we sold all of the goats.  We got them about 1 yr ago to provide milk for 2 steer calves.  Then we kept milking them and gave the milk to the pigs.  We tried making cheese, we tried drinking the milk.  We learned that dairying is not for us- at least not now.  It’s too much of an anchor; twice a day milking, everyday.  At a minimum it’s once a day milking.  It’s hard to have a life that way.  So we decided back in the fall that we were going to sell the goats in the spring.  It was hard, we love those goats.  At the same time, we’re glad to be out of the dairy business.

We got some broiler chicks at the end of the month, as well as 30 layer chicks.  Some of the broilers will be kept by us for our own use.  Others will be sold.  The layers will start supplying us with lots of eggs  around Oct 1.  At that time we’ll finally have lots of eggs to sell.

Brooding chicks is fun most of the time.  If the weather is warm it’s hard to beat.  If the weather is chilly it isn’t any fun at all.  Our brooder is an old tack room in our barn, its weather proof but not very warm.  So when the weather turns cold we have to bundle the chicks in with temporary walls and blanket roofs.  No fun for them and worrysome for us because we have to keep the temperature right- starting out at 98F 24/7 and working down gradually to ambient temperature over 3 weeks or so.  Sometimes fun and easy, other times not so much.

Our pigs also went to the butcher at the end of the month.  These pigs were great workers for us all winter long.  We gave them Thanks and some fun treats, now they will provide for many families all summer long.  More pigs will arrive in June for early November harvest.  Let us know if you want some excellent pork.

Spring 2014 Newsletter

Howdy Folks,

John & Emily Mercer here. Welcome to our first Life Cycles Pasture newsletter. This letter is really long, but I think you’ll find it good reading.

Happy Spring! It’s here, growing season is getting started and it’s time to think about food.

One new thing for the farm is a name. We decided on Life Cycles Pasture. As most of you know, Emily and I are avid cyclists. I mean, after all we did ride our bikes from New Zealand to Nepal. We also wanted Pasture in the name, which lends itself to our grass based farm. We started a website,, there’s not a whole lot on it yet but there will be in time.

Our farm is a little different from most of what you see nowadays. It’s kind of like they were a long time ago. But we do it in our own way and the way we see it fitting best in to our land. We raise meat chickens, layer hens, dairy goats, beef cattle, pigs, and humans. Everybody is raised on 8 acres of grass pasture. We also grow veggies and new for this year is sheep and animal fodders. Sounds like a lot of works doesn’t it?

For the most part, we’re an organic farm. But we are not certified organic and probably never will be. Organic is a term owned by the big corporate farms nowadays. Look at it this way, according the the USDA you can raise organic chickens in a barn with 20,000 housemates and organic beef in a feedlot. Our pasture is organic, our grass fed animals are organic. Some of our chickens are organic, some eat conventional feeds. None of our animals receive man-made medications of any sort. This doesn’t mean neglect, this means proper care.

We’re starting our 2nd year on this little farm. After a learning year, we decided that we want to grow things that grow well in our soil. Imagine that. As the years go on our soil will get better and we can begin to offer more. But for now we know that grass grows really well on our clay soil. So we’re going to focus on raising animals on the grass. Makes sense right? In the meantime we will raise veggies for us and fodder crops for the animals with an eye towards the future.

Another thing we want to focus on is doing what we like. John loves the farm, the animals, and the work that goes with it. Emily likes it all, but wants to go camping. Anyway, we love raising pigs. Most people say raising pigs in the winter isn’t worth it. We tried it this year, we wanted to practice before we get in to breeding. Is it worth it to us to keep pigs over the winter? The work those 2 pigs did for us over the winter was amazing. Last fall we got about 400 bags of leaves from the City. That’s a lot of leaves! The pigs worked almost all of these leaves into the soil and enjoyed every minute of it. The pigs would dig down about 24″ into the hard packed clay soil chasing roots. In the process of doing that they worked all of those leaves into the soil. Plus they chewed on the leaves, stomped on them, slept on them. Like a rototiller, they were loosening the soil and adding huge amounts of organic material to the clay soil. They had fun, we had fun; it was really cool to see. We’re going to grow fodder crops in that soil this summer and see what happens. Lots of organic material plus manure, should be exciting. Based on this winters experience, we might actually put an emphasis on raising pigs in the winter?

We also really like raising beef cattle and laying hens. The cattle are usually the easiest to raise. They get fresh pasture (or hay) each day, plus water and organic kelp. We follow the cattle on the pasture with chickens a few days later. Flies lay eggs in the cow poop. The eggs develop into larvae, then the chickens come in and eat that larvae, scratching the poop into the soil at the same time.

In winter, laying hens and pigs do really well together. The pigs dig and make lots of piles, the hens scratch and level those piles out. It’s funny, the hens are pretty aggressive towards the pigs at feeding time. The chickens have their heads right in the pigs feed bowl while the pigs are eating. They even peck corn bits off the pigs noses when they come up for a breath. So far the pigs haven’t figured out that chicken tastes good. Very funny to watch.

We are going to raise pastured meat chickens again this summer. These are amazing birds, entirely different from laying hens. Meat chickens go from a tiny chick to an 8 lb butcher size in 8 weeks. Along the way they eat a little bit of grass, insects, and leave large amounts of nitrogen rich fertilizer on our pasture. Meat chickens, and birds in general do not eat large amounts of grass. This means we need to buy a lot of feed which makes for an expensive end product.

One big new thing we are doing is an Open Farm day on May 18. We’ll open our farm up for a day of getting to know the neighbors, learning and educating, and hopefully have some fun too. We’ll be open from 12 PM to 5 PM that day. It’ll be family friendly. But no dogs and the kids gotta be under control, our electric fence will be on. We probably won’t have much for sale, it’s too early in the growing season for that. But bring your wallets just in case:) We will have lots of young chicks, hopefully some young pigs, and probably baby goats as well. We hope to make this an annual event. We’re also hoping to get orders and add people to our newsletter list.

Also new for this year is our first baby, Jemma. She was born in January and is an awesome baby. Very mellow. She has her own website, More pictures will wind up there as well.

So this has turned in to a long story about our farm and what we do here. Sales pitch coming up…

Here is a list of what we will have available this year. If you would like to purchase anything, please let us know and we will let you know a few more specifics. One thing we are trying to do is raise animals on order. Basically you tell us what you want and we’ll raise it. The alternative is we raise it and hope to sell it. Big difference.

Item Availability

Pastured broiler chickens early July

Organic, grass fed ground beef early August (maybe)

Pastured Pork early May and Fall

Pasture raised eggs ask us

Organic, grass fed beef late November

Organic, grass fed lamb Summer 2015

Our quantities are limited and subject to change. Predation is always an issue for our birds. So far we have had problems with hawks, owls, mink, racoons, and fox. It’s our job to protect the birds from these predators, but they are mighty presistent- and quick. And of course we’re still learning.

Pricing on our products varies. I am trying to keep prices as low as I can and still make a living. The biggest variable is processing cost. We can process chickens ourselves and sell them, but we can’t do that with pork or beef. Strange but true.

I love the question, “Why is pastured chicken so expensive?” I wish it wasn’t and I don’t get a good feeling selling chicken for $5 per pound. We all know you can buy a whole cooked chicken at City Market for $4. Subsidies are a big part of the answer. Chickens eat grain. Grain is heavily subsidized for large corporations. Not for little guys like me. How is a little guy like me supposed to compete with Tyson foods on pricing? I can’t and never will. But I can compete on quality, variety, and nutritional value.

The good news is you can get a lot of food out of one chicken. We tend to roast the chicken whole. Have some for dinner that night, pick the rest of the meat off the frame for dinners and lunches. Right there we have 5-6 meals. Then we make broth with the frame, wings and skin. Add a tsp of vinegar to the water and simmer it for 24 hrs. At the end we’ll have about a gallon of delicious, healthy broth. The vinegar boils off, but what it does is acidify the liquid so the minerals in the bones wind up in the broth. This is why pastured, naturally raised chicken is so good for you. The whole animal is healthy for you. Anyway, the broth will help make 2-6 more meals; so one $25 chicken can make 7-12 meals. Now it doesn’t seem so expensive and it helps me sleep at night knowing that. Here is a great article from one of our favorite bloggers about the true cost of pastured chicken. Subscribe to her blog, she’s really great if you’re in to cows, gardens, and someone growing 100% of the food her family eats year round.

Thanks for reading this far, this is the end. If you would like us to grow anything for you, please just email us directly and we will talk about details. Of course you can also call us too. Hopefully we will see you at the Open Farm on May 18, if not before then.

Have a wonderful Spring,

John & Emily Mercer

John 541-350-4261

Emily 720-343-0379

March 2014

We continue to work with the pigs and soil building.  This is the key to soil health on this farm.  At least this is a way we can do it in a shortish amount of time, with little effort on our part, and use appreciating ‘staff’ to do the work for us.  It’s quite a deal and the pigs are loving every bit of it.  These pigs are Hampshires, they are much better and more eager diggers than our 1st Berkshires were.  However the word on the pig street is the Berkshires taste the best.  Stay tuned for another post and maybe a video about deep bedding.

February 2014

The weather is turning warmer.  We manage to get a day of skiing in at Telluride thanks to Herb & Judy.  We give the pigs even more space.  What is happening is they are digging in areas where there is a lot of waste hay, and they are working that hay into the clay soil- adding heaps of organic material.  We give them leaves to work in to the soil as well.


January 2014

Still snowy & cold.  I give away 1 dairy goat and the buck.  She was a very nice goat but not a very good milker.  And he did his job (we hope) and we don’t want to keep a buck around all year.  Jemma was born in the 10th.  We give the pigs a bigger area, they are great diggers.

December 2013

Snow & cold.  Lots of painting in the house.

November 2013

Busy month, last of the harvest and last of the outside house work.  We butchered our last pig ourselves, then we bought 2 more piglets.  We butchered the turkeys for Thanksgiving.  Lots of painting in the house.  John starts working part time at the hospital.  John & Jack (Emily’s dad) and install 2 big windows on the sunny side of the house.  The room they’re in was like a cave, now it is sunny and will be a future sun room and greenhouse.

The turkeys were a real pain to raise.  We started with 15 poults and we ended with 2 at harvest time.  Grrr.  Most of them were killed in the June predator incident.  The rest slowly disappeared due to more predator issues, one at a time.  They had an annoying habit.  The turkeys lived with the chickens on the pasture.  They had the highest roost and it was safe.  However each night at dusk, when it came time to go to the roost and settle in for the night, the turkeys would fly out of their protective electric netting.  Then they couldn’t get back in and they were easy targets for fox.  So most nights at dusk we would look out there to make sure all turkeys are in the netting, most nights they weren’t, then we had to catch them (not easy) and put them back in.  Frustrating.  If we missed a night, say we were camping or came home late, we would lose a bird.

Also, the tom turkey started strutting his stuff.  He’d fan his tail and walk around like a tough guy.  The chickens thought the bright white fleshy part at the base of his tail made an interesting target.  Chickens have sharp beaks.  So eventually he wound up with a nasty wound that couldn’t heal.  For the last month or so we decided to catch our last turkeys and put them in a broiler pen for the last month or so.  This year we are not raising turkeys…  But we will gladly buy a live one in November and pay top dollar for it.  That farmer earned their money.

The new Hampshire pigs.  We like raising pigs and want to eventually get in to breeding.  But pig people say winter isn't worth it.  This winter is a trial for us.

The new Hampshire pigs. We like raising pigs and want to eventually get in to breeding. But pig people say winter isn’t worth it. This winter is a trial for us.

October 2013

We sell 1 pig (for butcher), he was bigger than the other.  We get some guinea fowl keets.  We stop milking the goats.  We receive 400 bags of leaves from the City to help increase the organic matter in our clay soil.  John starts his brewing consulting business.

September 2013

More preserving.  We tear out the fireplace in the house.  Have a predator issue with the young broilers, lost about 30 in 1 night.

July 2013

At the end of the month we wean the cattle, which means we can finally use the goat milk for other things like cheese.  But it turns out dairying isn’t our thing.  Too  much of an anchor to the farm.  Lots of work.

Oh yeah, we also cut our pasture for hay for the winter.

Oh yeah, we also cut our pasture for hay for the winter.

June 2013

We buy 2 piglets.  We butcher our first batch of meat chickens and sell most of them to friends.  Still milking the goats twice a day.  Our first predator issue with our pullets, cockerels, and poults.  We lost about 35 total in 1 night.  Start harvesting some of our greens and veggies.  It turns out most of our soil is not great for vegetables, it’s mostly clay.  We knew that, but somehow thought our gardens would be better.  Lots of work.

One Berkshire piglet, we bought 2 of them.  These are barrows, castrated males.

One Berkshire piglet, we bought 2 of them. These are barrows, castrated males.

May 2013

We buy 100 broiler chicks (meat chickens), 50 laying pullets & cockerels (future hens & roosters), 15 turkey poults (chicks), 3 dairy goats and a young buckling (young buck), and 2 steer calves.  The calves were bottle raised on goats milk.  That meant twice a day milking everyday.  We set up electric fence around our farm.  Lots of work and lots of learning.

April 2013

April 2013.  John’s ski lift operator gig at Telluride ends and he goes to work on the farm full time.  He digs the gardens through pasture grass roots.  Emily gets pregnant.  Start building bird pens for the pasture.  Lots of work.

A few of many gardens, freshly dug.

A few of many gardens, freshly dug.

A pastured poultry pen with 3-4 weeks old birds inside.  These pens get moved twice a day.  Fresh grass to eat and scratch through plus it speads the manure out.

A pastured poultry pen with 3-4 weeks old birds inside. These pens get moved twice a day. Fresh grass to eat and scratch through plus it speads the manure out.

March 2013

We bought this place.

We moved in towards the middle of the month and we started coming up with a plan.  We knew we wanted grass pasture for grass fed and pastured meats.  We also know we want some vegetable garden space.

Starting out…

We’re just now starting our 2nd year on this little farm.  We figure we would start up this website as a way to share information about our farm, have it a marketing tool, and to allow me a way to post creative ways of doing things around here.  Not that my ideas are all that revolutionary, but I really appreciate when people do it and I have a chance to read about it.  Enjoy.

A sign of the end?

Perusing the internet one night (tonight), I came across the mention of an curious magazine.  I’ve never heard of this particular magazine before.  Now I know there are a ton of magazines out there I have never heard of, but I grow things, I read a lot, and never to come across this?  Funny.