February 2017

A few new things for this year, good and bad.

We purchased 80 little pullet chicks in mid-Feb.  Normally we don’t get pullets until April or May.  The big difference is these new birds will start laying in July, during farmers market season.  Waiting until April or May means they won’t start laying until October, exactly when we want to see a decrease in eggs.  The weather was mild for the first week, getting them off to a strong start.  Of course then it got cold, down to about 10 F.  Certainly the coldest temps I have ever contended with while brooding, but it worked fine.  Here is what our high tech brooder looks like:

On the bad end of things, lice on our cattle has been a problem this year.  It’s always something!  I’ve never had to contend with cattle lice before, and I don’t use synthetic drugs on any of my animals.  So I’ve been dusting them with diatomaceous earth and not seeing great results.  Next was a dust containing small amounts of pyrethrin.  This is a natural pesticide made from chrysanthemum flowers.  Still, I don’t like using it.  Not good results yet.  Luckily lice in cattle is a winter problem, so it’s just about over.  Now I know in the fall to give the cattle a good delousing with whatever natural methods I find work best.  Never stop learning, right?

August 2016

The biggest news of the month is we have a bull again. He is one beautiful animal.

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His name is Bo and he’s from Clifton. He’s a registered Red Shorthorn, very gentle and very big. He’s about 2000 lbs and is gentle enough to eat out of my hand. Hopefully we get a few heifers next spring, we’ll keep them for breeding.

Very glad to find him. We were initially looking at AI because we couldn’t find a bull. Then we did find a bull in Eckert, and the day I went to pick him up his owner noticed he had pinkeye. Super contagious and I didn’t want to bring him in. As the last moment we found Bo, and he had been great.

The other big news for the month is tomatos! Holy cow. We are picking about one 5-gal bucket of tomatos per week. Lots of sauce making, roasting, freezing, yum. Emily roasted one batch and I turned it in to fermented ketchup. It turned out really good and we have about a half gallon of it.

We don’t do a lot of weeding in our garden, so it’s a lush green jungle out there.

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Our meat chickens are doing great. We had <5% loss with this last batch. The last round of chicken butchering is slated for Sept 6, they will be almost 7 weeks old. We will also be culling some older hens that day. I guess it’s not a good day to be a chicken on our farm.

My brewery work has been very busy lately. This makes fitting in the farm work a bit of a challenge. But it’s all good and life is just busy sometimes. See you in October.

A winter break

I am not selling at the Montrose Farmer’s Market for the remainder of the winter; I will be back in May.  But we still have plenty of pasture raised, non-GMO fed hens providing us with lots of eggs.  Please come on by the farm to get yours.  I work from home, so I’m usually here.  We also have several amazing beef roasts from our grass finished cattle.

September 2015

So we rented a bull back in August- his job is to get our cows pregnant. Seems simple enough, right? Like everything on a farm, it’s harder than I thought.

For starters we aim for calving in May or June, late for most outfits in the US. The aim is to calve when the local ruminants (deer & elk) are calving. Makes sense right? This means breeding in August or September.

The problem is we don’t own a bull, don’t really want to (we only have 2 cows), and I don’t want to AI (artificially inseminate). The other problem is most cattle owners around here bring their cattle up to the high country at this time of year. Finding a bull to rent was harder than I thought. We found a ‘lowline angus’ bull in Fruita. I love the name, lowline as in dwarf. He’s about 3 ft tall.

Bull and cow!

Bull and cow!

Eventually the time came to return the bull to his owner. This didn’t go quite as well as we hoped. In fact, he’s still here! He’s feisty, to say the least. All sorts of thoughts go through our mind as we’re trying to catch this bull. Don’t get killed, just cooperate!, Please!, and many more that don’t bear repeating. Ultimately I called my local cattle resource around here and told her my dilemma (Yup, she’s a cowgirl). ‘You can get more out of life with sugar instead of vinegar.’ Basically, tame the beast, make friends with him, and he will willingly do what you want. That process is happening now. I love the philosophy, it’s working, but it involves grain. We are a grass fed cattle operation and they’re all getting grain right now. Not much, but it grates my nerves. Once he’s gone the grain goes to the chickens.

Of course another situation is he’s 3 ft tall and our cows are about 4 ft tall. Fingers are crossed that he did his job.

We made some great hay in September. Late for us, but we grazed these pastures earlier in the season. The only way we can make this work, in fact make the farm as a whole work, is to hire the haying done. We hire the work, he owns the tractor and all of the equipment- and he does all of the work. Well, he does the easy part. Cuts it and bales it. There are several days in between those 2 events and we hope for no rain. Eventually it’s up to us to pick it up in the field, put it on a trailer, drive to the hay stack and unload. Roughly 60 lb bales and we got about 160 of them. Not huge numbers, but we’re a small farm.

I mentioned we were hoping for no rain. As the hay dries and cures, the cells dry and rupture. Rain washes the nutrients away. The other problem is mold, moldy hay is rejected by the animals we’re trying to feed.

Anyway, busy busy. Hopefully the bull heads home on Oct 9. Come to the farmers market on the 10th for the news report.

July 2015

Summer! It’s been good so far.

We brought out cattle to the processor on July 1. Finally! These cattle were bottle raised by Emily and I back in the summer of 2013, our first summer on this farm. We bought them from James Ranch near Durango. Are we sad? No. We’re finally getting some significant cash coming in to the farm! Sorry cows, that’s the way the ball game works;)

Chicory in the pasture.

Chicory in the pasture.

The cattle were processed at Homestead Meats in Delta, the only USDA inspected processor in the area. I owe a big thanks to our neighbor Terry for loaning us his trailer and hauling these cattle to Delta. The cattle hung in the cooler for 2 weeks, then were cut according to our instructions. I am a roast fan, not so much for ground beef. So we have a lot of roasts. Hopefully farmers market customers have similar preferences. But it’s not quite roast season yet.

Here is our cattle price list and we still have a nice selection of just about all cuts. I’m hoping to sell out of this beef by Nov 1 or so. The prices are a little high, but please don’t think we’re getting rich off of this. The money goes to buy more cattle and minerals.

Another exciting thing for the month is we have a bull! We were able to lease a bull from a rancher in Fruita. We have 2 cows that need a bull. Finding a bull proved to be a challenge. Most of the cattle around here go to the high country for the summer. Artificial insemination was an option, but not something I wanted to do. Late in the game I found the bull in Fruita. Kind of a haul, but I think it worked out well. He’s a lowline Angus bull. Our cows are Hereford. So we should get black calves with white faces. Our biggest concern is this bull is small. 18 months old, our cows are 26 months old. But lowline cattle are just small. We’re hoping he can ‘reach’ the cows to do his job. We’re hoping for calves in June 2016.

Bull on the left, cow on the right...

Bull on the left, cow on the right…

Chickens have kept us busy all summer. We started chicks in the brooder in April, and finally kicked the last chicks out of the brooder at the end of July. Brooding is a lot of work and the closest things come to traditional confinement houses on our farm. We generally move chicks out on the pasture at 3 weeks old, turkeys at 4 weeks.

The Eggmobile!  Hens are under it finding noontime shade.

The Eggmobile! Hens are under it finding noontime shade.  Lots more eggs coming Oct 1!

Our first batch of meat chickens were butchered in early June, and they were a huge disappointment for us. Our second batch turned out nice and big, but they were about 3 weeks late for butchering, which means 3 more weeks of feeding large hungry birds and 3 more weeks of work. We have 1 more batch of meat chickens out on pasture now, ready for butchering in mid-late August. Thanks for Russell Evans and the students of Transition Lab for helping with chicken processing!

Meat chickens finding afternoon shade.

Meat chickens finding afternoon shade.

We also have some turkeys out there. We started with 15, we’re down to 11 now. 3 died in the brooder when they were little, 1 died in the pasture over a chilly, wet night. We have had rough luck with turkeys here over the years. Turkeys are great, but when they get bigger they are really susceptible to foxes and dogs. Fingers crossed, if these turkeys don’t work out for us we probably won’t do turkeys again.

Turkeys, ready for some grasshoppers.

Turkeys, ready for some grasshoppers.

Our garden is like a jungle! Pigs dig the gardens for us over the winter and till in heaps of organic material as they go.  Compare this picture to last months picture.

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I’m selling at the local Montrose Farmers Market every week, primarily chicken and beef. It’s been a lot of fun, I like meeting people and sharing stories.