September 2017

Where have I been?

Working.  When I started this year, my goal was to figure out how to have it be more sustainable.  Not in the ecological context, but in the my-life-is-too-crazy context.  Why am I beating myself over the head about all of this?

Mama and one of our 2017 calves

Back in May I made the decision to really simplify things.  Not an easy call for sure, but it was something that had to be done.  We are getting out of the cattle business.

So now we are down to laying hens only, plus a few freezers full of meat to sell.

Once the meat sells we will simplify to ‘projects’ only.  A few pigs sometimes.  A group of meat chickens on occasion.  Maybe some sheep again?  I will graze other peoples cattle on our pasture twice a year for 1-2 months each.

Not an easy decision to make.  But over time I have learned that the farm breaks even financially, my income comes from my brewery work, and the farm prevents us from living the kind of life we want.  For instance being able to do overnight camping trips.  So rather than fight it, I will focus on my brewery work and enjoy a less hectic lifestyle.

What do I do for breweries?  I work from home as a consultant and equipment provider.  My specific niche is the wastewater side of brewing.  Depending on where they’re located, wastewater can range from a non-issue to a deal breaker.  Or somewhere in between.  Or they might not even be in a town and they need to dispose of all wastewater on site?  That just barely scratches the surface, but it can be a big deal.  And being what it is, they don’t want to deal with it.  And I have a lot of experience in this field.  I like helping people.  I don’t like being my own accountant:)

At this point I still own our cattle but will be selling them this fall to a local pasture based rancher.  Ahhhh, relief.

I will remain heavily involved in the Montrose Farmers’ Market.  I am currently board president and will probably remain in that position for awhile.  2017 will be my last year as a vendor however.

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?

Cool picture

In the summer of 2016 we planted a bunch of Mammoth sunflowers from seed.  They are a very cool plant, they are really big!  But one thing I wasn’t expecting was the habitat they provided.  All summer long these plants were a swarming scene of life and death.  They were infested by aphids but remained healthy all summer.  The aphids attracted lady bugs, praying mantis, and wasps.  Here is a pretty cool picture of a typical scene of just one leaf, click on the picture for the full size version:

I’m not sure exactly what is going on here besides a feast.  I think the small white critters are larval praying mantis.  We have a ton of mantis’s on our farm, it looks to me like the ladybug is eating the mantis’s instead of the aphids.

Life of a farmer

My pig mentor recently posted a list of things he needs to be an expert in.  Great idea!  I get comments a lot from people saying something along the lines of ‘I’d hate to shovel poop all day’.  I never do that, never have.  A lot of times people don’t know what farmers do.  I’m a part time farmer, part time brewery consultant, and full time father.

We all have lists like this in our life, but farming certainly is varied.  Here goes:

  • Twice daily chores including feeding, watering, gathering eggs, cleaning eggs, packaging eggs, selling eggs; and more;
  • Working with our livestock;
  • Transporting livestock to slaughter;
  • Processing and butchering chickens;
  • Moving animals every day.  This includes cows, sheep, laying hens, broilers, and sometimes pigs.
  • Designing labels and marketing materials;
  • Tracking & analyzing sales and yield data;
  • Purchasing young animals.  Chicks, piglets, calves, etc.
  • Building, maintaining and repairing equipment;
  • Seeding bare spots;
  • Harvesting and storing hay;
  • Planting apple, pear and other perennials for the future;
  • Regulations and paperwork;
  • Selling at the farmers market, every Saturday, 6 months a year;
  • Starting seedlings;
  • Irrigating!
  • Research on how to do things (we don’t know it all);
  • Engineering;
  • Metal fabrication;
  • Plumbing;
  • Electrical work;
  • Refrigeration systems;
  • Carpentry;
  • Concrete;
  • Web design;
  • Being a dad;
  • Cutting firewood for our home;
  • Learning new skills; and
  • Enjoying the bounty of the land and the good life.  This list goes on, I can never do it all.  But shoveling poop is certainly not on the list.  The animals job is to do that for us.  And they do.  That’s part of a diversified farm.

It’s never dull, never boring, generally very rewarding and interesting here on the farm. That isn’t to say there aren’t hard days or weeks but as a rule they are vastly outweighed by the good times.

The worst part about it is the daily chores.  Not that they’re bad, but it’s everyday, twice a day, 365 days/yr.  That makes having a normal life difficult.  Camping, vacation, trips to Denver, even a day hike in the mountains or a ski trip in the winter; all of these have to be planned around chores and animals.  That is the worst part.

The best part is working with the animals, raising them naturally with no injections, antibiotics, medications, or any other weird stuff.  Just grass, pasture, and non-GMO grains for the poultry.  And of course feeding our family and yours with the fruits of all of this labor.  It’s funny how a natural diet and a natural environment elminates the need for all of these weird things like antibiotics and vaccinations.

But of course the tradeoff is money.  Greed.  More animals can be raised in a shorter amount of time when confined in a small space, fed high powered feed, and given antibiotics to keep them alive.  It’s not right, but it is what it is and I certainly can’t change that.  But I digress…  This is supposed to be about the life of a farmer.

October 2015

He’s still here; the bull that is.

What a pain. And of course a nice school of hard knocks lesson for us. I didn’t grow up with cows, everything I learn I get by reading. But there comes a time when experience is better. For that I turn to my local cowgirl, Helen Rutherford. We bought our cows from her in 2014, and we want to buy more calves from her. But we have to get rid of this bull first. We might just buy the bull and happily butcher him in 2016 if we can’t get rid of him.

Helen brought us her stock trailer, it’s sitting in our pasture now. Her advice is to get the animals used to going in there, feed them in there, let them rub on the sides and get used to it’s metallic noises. When the bull goes in shut the door and he’s trapped. Guess what. He knows it’s a trap. Our cows and steer go in there no problem, even if I’m already in there. He seems to know better, again, what a pain! He was supposed to be gone in mid-Sept.

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Small bull, big pain. But I do think he was successful in breeding the cows.

The change in the seasons is here. Gardens are being put to bed, and since it’s not as hot and the grass is going dormant things stay muddy for longer. So our eggmobile is stuck in the mud. The joys of farming! I might need to move it with my pickup truck to get it where I need it to be.  On a side note, we do have lots of eggs for sale.

We did a 5-day family trip to Bend, OR! Friends of ours got married and we went for the reception. All of our friends got to meet Jemma for the first time. Our neighbors took care of the farm while we were away and did a great job.

Right before this trip to Bend I butchered all of the turkeys. Turkeys were much better for us this year than in years previous, but still we had 33% mortality. Is that a success? This is our third year raising turkeys, in the first 2 years we had a total of 20 birds and wound up with 2 in the freezer. The issue was predators, mink and fox. Mink!? This year we started with 15 and wound up with 10 in the freezer. 4 died in the brooder when they were little, 1 died outside from some sort of illness. But no predators! Again, is that a success? Turkeys are pretty simple once they go outside, but they’re much more fragile when they’re young. At least that’s their reputation- and it’s mostly true if they behave. The first 2 yrs what happened was the birds would fly outside their enclosure at sunset and couldn’t figure out how to get back in. Fox bait.

The summer farmers market is winding down, transitioning in to the indoor winter market.  This was our first season at the Montrose Farmers Market, and it was pretty good.  However my goal has always been to not do any farmers market.  It ties up every Saturday morning which makes things like camping difficult.  But I like it, talking with new people all of the time and telling our story.  I will be at the farmers market through 2015, taking the winter off, and will be back at it in May 2016.  I will have eggs for sale direct off the farm all winter long, hopefully I get enough traffic this winter to keep up with the egg supply!

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Anyway, farming like anything in life, is full of lessons.

October 2014

Biggest news of the month is my hand is healing up pretty good. I’m impressed with how well it’s doing, considering 4 weeks ago the bone was in 5 pieces or something like that. And I never had a cast. Very happy about that.

Anyway, this is a family farm blog, not a medical blog…

We butchered some chickens this past week, with help from John’s dad Paul and his wife Judy. These were 18 month old laying hens and it was the first time butchering anything for the hired help. We still don’t have a plucker, so they got the job of plucking. Maybe Santa will bring a plucker?

Sunflowers did a little too well this year.

Sunflowers did a little too well this year.

We have a pretty cool and unique for around here plan for hay feeding this winter. Making hay around here usually consists of cutting the plants, letting them dry in the sun, then baling the hay, hauling it to a pile, then hauling it to the animals all winter long. We don’t have hay making equipment, so we hire this service. Baling the hay is the expensive part. So, we got a book about getting away from hay altogether. ‘Kick the Hay Habit’ by Jim Gerrish.

During the growing season we do what’s called management intensive grazing (MIG). Basically the cows are in a fairly small area and they eat everything in a day, then they get moved to completely fresh pasture for another day. They utilize the pasture plants effectively, and they get nice fresh greens every day. Equally important, the plants get to completely recover before they are grazed again (about 4 weeks later). Not one bite. Anyway, now that we’re out of the grazing season we do strip grazing. Same idea, but there is no fence behind them. The fence in front of them moves everyday, so they still get completely fresh pasture every day- but the space behind them gets bigger. And that’s OK, the plants are dormant now and don’t really need to recover. We’ll probably do strip grazing until the end of January. But the kicker is they’ll be eating hay in December and January.

The cattle will be eating standing pasture through November. We had hay cut in early October on part of the pasture, then had the hay raked in to windrows, combining 3 swather paths in to 1 windrow. Long, narrow piles of hay. The key thing to everything we do here is electric fence. We rely on it more than any other thing for everything we do. Imagine a bunch of long rows of loose hay laying in the pasture. Electric fence will surround it so the cattle can’t get in. On one edge we move the fence about 10 ft per day. So the cattle get fresh hay all winter long. Since we live in a dry environment this works (hopefully). If we lived in a wet environment the hay would rot.

One key thing we have to do is get the cattle to learn where those rows of hay are before we get a good snow. Once they know its there they’ll dig it up if its buried in snow. They’ll also lay where the hay was, the ground won’t be frozen under there. Cows are good at being cows.

Last winter we ran some pigs in an area with bad soil. In 1 winter they changed the soil to our best on the whole farm. Read some of our posts from early 2014 for pictures. Anyway, we planted corn, winter squash, pumpkins, potatoes, oats and millet in there. The whole thing was an experiment. It all performed amazingly well. We didn’t weigh our squash/pumpkin harvest, but my guess is at least 500 lbs total. We eat the good ones, pigs and chickens get the rest. Awesome.

Thanks pigs!

Thanks pigs!

Winter squash and heritage ensilage dent corn.

Winter squash and heritage ensilage dent corn.

September 2014

Guess what, another good month here.  Jemma is crawling, and our cows were moved to the neighbors pasture for a month or so.  The cattle are enjoying themselves, eating the grass and nibbling the brush along the edges.

The biggest news for September actually happened on October 2.  John broke his hand working out in the pasture, tripped on an irrigation furrow and landed awkwardly on his right hand.  1 broken (splintered) bone and surgery with a plate and 10 screws on this little bone.  Things will slow down even more here.  At least I like to think that way.

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Pig butchering at the end of the month will be delayed by 4 to 6 weeks.  We raised 3 pigs through the summer, and they did a lot of work for us.  We have some dry areas in the pasture and they worked in a lot of dryland pasture seed.  I hope the results are good next spring.  2 of the pigs were raised ‘on contract’ for friends and family.  The 3rd pig is for us, and its the one we will butcher at home ourselves- once my hand heals.

We had our grass cut in early October.  The idea is we’re going to rake it in to windrows, not bale it, and then feed it over the winter to the cattle.  We’ll use electric fence to slowly meter out the wind rows, since baling is the expensive part of making hay, this is a cheap way to make hay for the winter.  We were short on hay, now we are looking really good.  I project a hay surplus in spring.

Chicory

Chicory

Good insects!

Good insects!

The hens got moved off pasture at the end of September and they have two weeks to think about where home is.  They’re cooped up in their hen house as they rehome that this is their new home.  October 3rd the hens get released back out to free range for the rest of the winter.  The trick is for us to remember to close the hens door at night to keep the predators out, and then open the door in the morning.  Sounds easy but if you forget just once in these six months or so that’s all it takes for a raccoon, skunk or fox to get in the hen house and cause a lot of damage- lets just put it that way.

Our pullets started laying in mid September, now we’re getting 10 to 18 eggs per day.  So we finally have eggs for sale . These are pasture raised hens fed non GMO feed and in the winter they are free range.  They’ll be fighting with the pigs here soon trying to steal their food, these  little birds are pretty bold.  Funny to see.

A new rooster…

Normally we start our day with morning chores.  We hope to find cattle and pigs still in the right place and no missing birds.  Almost every day is how we want it to be.

This week something funny happened.  Somehow we have a new rooster.

He’s full grown and the ladies seem to like him, but where did he come from?  My guess is somebody wanted to get rid of him and threw him in our pasture.  Roosters being roosters, he found his way in to the pen with the hens.  Great, now what.  We already have 1 young rooster, now we have 2.  We definitely do not need 2 roosters, and we might not even want 1 of them (they are very noisy).

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Hmmmm.  3 options.  We can keep them both (not likely).  We can eat 1 of them.  Or we can feed 1 of them to the pigs.

June 2014

Another busy month…  Let’s see, the main things are we bought 3 pigs.  These are heritage breed Berkshire pigs.  We got them at 5 weeks old from a breeder in Hotchkiss.

Here they are at about 7 weeks old and already digging.  This is an old wood ash area, lots of roots and it got a little wet.  Pig heaven.

Here they are at about 7 weeks old and already digging. This is an old wood ash area, lots of roots and it got a little wet. Pig heaven.

 

We butchered our first batch of meat chickens.  Quite a job and never very fun, but we wound up with 27 for sale and 16 for us.  We sold them for $4.50 per pound.  We actually plucked all of them by hand- it took a long time.  I have plans for a DIY plucker, but the plans call for a very specific motor and I’m having a hard time finding it, even on Ebay.  Know anyone with a 10:1 gear motor, 1 HP, single phase, 110v or 220v?  The deal killer part of things is single phase.  Most gear motors are used in industrial settings, such as conveyors.  3 phase is common in factories but not at houses.

We did a trial of non-GMO feed and conventional feed with GMO ingredients.  We started with quite a few losses on the GMO side, but most were accidents of various sorts.  Then we got lots of losses on the non-GMO side.  And these were feed related.  What a surprise and what a disappointment.  I think the main issue was actually the milling process.  The conventional feed is ground very fine, almost like flour.  The non-GMO feed was very coarse, slightly larger than sesame seeds in size.  Too big for little chicks.  At least I think that’s what was going on.  Either way, high losses during the first 2 weeks.  I’d rather have no losses, but losses at very young is a lot easier to take than losses at 7 weeks after so much care and feeding.

In the end, we wound up going with a different supplier.for non-GMO feed which was ground a lot finer, like flour again.

Anyway, the other biggie for the month is irrigation.  I have to make it better for 2015.  Pasture irrigation is easy.  Right now we use too much water, but plans are in place to make that better in the spring.  The hard part is irrigation all of our gardens.  I do it 3 times a week and it takes 2-3 hrs each time I do it.  Not a horrible task, but it does get old and I think I have better ways to spend my time.

 

Chicken math…

 

One of the reasons we raise chickens is because we like pastured chicken & eggs. We get a lot of food out of one chicken. And we don’t like chickens raised in confinement. Not that the chicken meat itself tastes a whole lot different, but healthy flesh makes for healthyness. Sick tissues make for sickness.

A book I’m reading now had a cool phrase ‘Humans are really good at cause and effect for things that are immediate. Touching a red hot coal makes for a painful burn. We figure that our pretty quick.  But put time or complexity into the equation and humans are bad at it.’ Their case in point was pooping near the well; eventually someone’s gonna get sick. What caused it? We’ll figure it out, but it’s not immediate like poking a hot coal.  Along those same lines we can imagine the fundamental flaws with fracking our water tables, burning fossil fuels, eating McDonald’s everyday…

Have you noticed our tangential ways? Weren’t we talking about chicken math?  One of the things we don’t like about raising chickens is the amount of feed we have to buy. Our cows eat our grass, year round.

Another reason is we don’t like selling chicken at $5/lb.

We all know we can buy a hot, cooked chicken at the grocer for $5.

With cornish cross chickens, roughly 2 lbs of feed = 1 lb of bird. 2:1, that’s impressive.  For small producers it’s probably closer to 2.5:1.  Our birds eat more because they’re outdoors, getting exercise and staying warm.

Non-GMO feed costs $0.40/lb. So that works out to $0.80/lb of bird. (warning, math coming up)

An 8 lb bird will dress out to about 5.5 lbs.

8 lbs of bird = $6.40 in feed.

$6.40/5.5 lbs = $1.16/lb for the finished product.

This doesn’t include the cost of the bird, labor, packaging, infrastructure…

One thing we would like to know. How do you feel about GMO or non-GMO feed for your food?  A year ago I would have said “I don’t care”.

Do a little research, or a lot. What I want to know is if the added cost for non-GMO fed birds is worth it to you?

The purpose of almost all GMO crops is to make them glyphosphate resistant.  Another way of putting it is “RoundUp Ready”.  Spray RoundUp on the fields and the weeds die but your crop can still grow.  Monsanto makes money because they breed & patent the RoundUp ready seeds and they make RoundUp.  They are on record stating something along the lines of ‘We are in business to make money, not create healthy food.’

But the gist is the chemical is still in/on the crop. Who wants RoundUp in their food? I don’t.  It gets to that point brought up at the beginning, humans are bad at seeing long term effects. So I go with my judgement.

Thanks for staying with me on my tangential chicken math topic:)

 

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.

 

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.

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 permies.com, 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.

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.

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.