Tuesday it was raining, so when I finished applying the siding boards, trim and roof, I decided to cover the entire project with some plastic left over from my last high tunnel cover change. For folks who haven’t been following along on this project, may I suggest that you review my previous two posts.
The need to evacuate my garage has developed so it’s time to take everything outside to place in storage until Spring arrives. What a wonderful adventure this has been to pass the gloomy weather of the past two weeks.
On February 1st my flat bed trailer entered the garage and construction began on the well pump house. Other than having to purchase more screws from my local Home Depot, it appears that everything required is on hand. I say that, somewhat confidently, as the project is essentially complete short only the application of the cedar siding. The most interesting part of the project has been planning how to assemble everything with only limited ceiling clearance. I left one wall open until the very end to allow access to the interior since the house is built lying on its back with the future door opening on the top.
Here are some photos at various stages, yet prior to siding application…
I have to admit to slacking off on my blog updates. Ever since purchasing a 40 acre parcel of land for an additional wood lot and grazing space, I’ve been consumed with the task of clearing, fencing and providing water and electricity to a 3 acre pasture area. Since it is located in the middle of nowhere, solar power and high tensile electric fence are the most affordable choices. To minimize regrowth after clearing, my plan is to get cattle out there as quickly as possible. I’ll lower the stump cuts but leave the root balls to compost.
Last Summer I placed all the corner H braces and gate openings using railroad ties, support posts at 70 foot intervals using 8’ Pressure Treated timbers and enough insulators to suspend four strands of wire. Come Spring I look forward to actually stringing the wire to enclose the pasture. In the mean time, and the reason for my delinquency, I’ve been designing and assembling all the materials to put a well house along side the fence.
It’s not simply an 8 foot tall 4’ by 4’ wooden structure but rather an attractively cedar-sided shelter for the 16 foot deep dug well head, automated pump controls, fence charger, solar battery charger and communications equipment to relay performance data over our farms wi-fi network. As I mentioned, the pasture is in the middle of nowhere, so resting assured that the water trough is full and the fence is fully operational requires either frequent daily visits or a bit of “high tech”…
I chose “high tech”.
All the programming and control circuitry is finished and tested so construction of the actual well house structure will begin within two weeks (when the garage is freed up).
Today was spent calibrating the sensors and setting up the server page to monitor status online.
I promise there will be blog updates and plenty of pictures as everything comes together.
Well, here we are in January! Officially Winter with several days of single digit temperatures and snow on the ground. Usually this is when I start paying particular attention to both my wood pile and hay loft as a quick mental calculation, based upon current consumption rates, triggers either contentment or concern.
The past several Summers have not been kind to the local dry bale hay farmers. Long, wet Springs and sporadic showers arising within very short spells of decent baling weather has driven those dry bale prices to outrageous levels. Late Fall pricing at our local farm store was over $10 per bale for first cut hay. Second was obviously higher and, with greater demand due to the abundance of horses and ‘pet‘ goats, nearly impossible to obtain in satisfactory quantity.
For many small
farms, turning to baleage rounds has provided a solution to the
availability, storage and handling issues of dry bales. Baleage is
partially dried forage, preferably 45-55 percent moisture, which is
baled and wrapped with at least 6 layers of 1 mil plastic. Rounds are
typically left out in the Winter grazing area, eliminating the need
for cover. Some advantages over dry hay include less loss during
storage, fewer weather delays at harvest, and faster turnaround from
when the forage is down in both regrowth and time on the ground. The
equipment changes are not significant but need to be considered.
Since the rounds
typically weigh between 600 to 800 pounds, an adequate tractor is a
requirement. A round bale feeder is also beneficial to reduce waste.
The process of
fermentation in baleage is the key to nutrient preservation so once
exposed to oxygen, they decay quite rapidly. Ideally the round should
be consumed within ten days to avoid waste. Our cows will each
consume about 50 pounds per day while the goats will each enjoy 4 to
5 pounds per day. This will increase as the Winter temperatures drop,
but is a decent guide to determine if this feed alternative is right
We’ve paid on
average $50 in recent years for each round, equating to the
equivalent of 15 to 20 dry bales. Since both cost and labor are
considerations in our choices, consider this as potentially a viable
With that, we wish
you all a happy and productive New Year.
In its purest, most honest form, farm-to-table, also known as farm
to fork, means the table is actually at the origination farm and the
food is produced, prepared, cooked and served at that farm. Several
years ago a member of our market cooperative decided to see how long
she could satisfy her family utilizing only those foods produced on
her small farm. It was an experiment, of course, but an honest
evaluation of her independent sustainability.
The concept of raising our own food is more understandable than
the motivation to do so since the reasons vary everywhere from taking
a bite out of the food bill to preparing for the end of the world as
we know it. In between the extremes we find overlapping concerns such
as avoidance of exposure to GMO’s, salmonella contamination,
plant-based and cell-cultured meats etc.
Janice and I decided to pursue a ‘farm to table’ agenda for entirely different reasons… me for the independence aspect, and she for the health benefits. From initial concept to the current variation, we learned how to preserve foods year round, market our surplus, and provide for our children and grandchildren with healthy nourishment and a hands-on education not unlike the Foxfire Series. We’ve met and learned so much from like minded people that the journey has truly been more rewarding than any perceived destination.
As for our dear friends experiment, she achieved a very satisfying
outcome with a farm to table menu enduring for an entire month. They
made it! We’d love to hear from others who have endeavored to
achieve that goal.
Why Are So Many Farmers Markets Failing ?
The comfortable answer is “because the market is saturated”, but there are many more subtle economic reasons. This is my attempt at answers for why so many local markets have closed.
Farmers markets charge fees for participation since there are usually additional costs involved such as management, advertising, facility rental etc.
Most, if not all, markets require participants to provide proof of liability insurance for their products. Typical coverage required is a million dollar policy, sometimes more.
Unlike big agriculture, which picks their crop prior to it reaching maturity in order to accommodate distribution delay, local farmers pick their crops at peak freshness and deliver them to the market in that condition. Whatever produce isn’t sold that day at a farmers market becomes a liability to the farmer since it rapidly loses its freshness and appearance.
Four to five hours spent commuting and tending to the market incurs a cost.
There are many farmers who offer meats, fruits or vegetables that are certified “organic” or “grass fed”. This is a costly and often bureaucratic-heavy process but are pesticide, herbicide and GMO free, demanding a premium.
Buying food from local farmers supports your local community and you get to meet, learn from and connect a face to the provider of your food. Unfortunately many farmers, finding it difficult to recover these added costs within the market venue, turn instead to a CSA (community supported agriculture) model.
Through the CSA model, waste is minimized, farmers get to spend time marketing the food early in the year before their 16 hour days in the field begin. They receive payment early in the season, improving the farm’s cash flow and, sometimes several farmers will offer their products together, providing a wider variety to their share holders. There seems to be many advantages to the CSA model resulting in its growing (pun intended) popularity.
How do you feel about this?
Thank goodness we don’t harvest poultry very often. I forgot how long it takes to set up and clean up afterward. The actual event went smoothly however and my estimate regarding weight was right on! The tom came in at 35.3 lbs and the hen at 25.8 lbs. Both birds went into refrigeration and we went out again to clean the chicken coop and spread dry shavings. We carved all the meat off the hen to grind and package in one pound freezer bags – ended up with almost sixteen pounds.
Nothing left to do today but make the stuffing, put it in that cavernous frame and get the bird in the oven. Our preferred cooking method for roast turkey is to bake it with a small foil tent covering overnight at 250° for a total of about 15 to 16 hours. The end result is an extremely tender and moist bird with beautifully browned skin. The aroma of roast turkey permeating the house is a wonderful appetite builder for the arriving guests. So many memories of times long ago!
We used to grow our turkeys into the 40 to 50 pound range for a select group of customers. One of those proud clients would cook the monster outdoors in a smoker, garnish and serve it up in a wheelbarrow to the astonishment of his guests! It would be fun to hear your recipes and Thanksgiving adventures, please do share them.
Perhaps it’s because time is going by so quickly these days, or maybe because my memory is fading. Regardless of the cause, I decided to start a sort of diary of daily (or likely weekly) events that occur here on the farm. In today’s vernacular it’s called a ‘blog’, so here I am on day one…
Yesterday we sold our one year old buck, Braefell Lynden, to another local dairy goat farm. As he was the sire to three of our 2019 does, it didn’t seem wise to allow him to breed with his daughters despite having wonderful characteristics. Our mature girls have all been bred now and we peacefully await their freshening due the first of April 2020. Once that occurs there will be no peace.
It looks like tomorrow’s weather will be good for dispatching our turkeys. The hen appears to weigh in the mid twenties, and the tom in the mid thirties so we’ll probably cook up the tom for Thanksgiving. Fortunately all our guests know enough to bring Tupperware when invited to a turkey dinner on the farm… Janice and I can eat left over turkey only so long.
The new laying hens we purchased earlier this month will probably enjoy the increased range space and reduced competition for the food. They were worth every penny though, since they started laying within a week of delivery and have all been producing an egg every day since.
I wish everyone a blessed Thanksgiving day with family and friends.