Sunday, December 27, 2009

Old Mc Brian had a farm E-I-E-I-O My!


...and on his farm he had some pigs. Lots of pigs.

We now have what I call families of pigs. I guess the proper term would be "breeding groups", but that sounds sort of cold and sterile. Besides they are families. Each piggy family has a Daddy (Boar) and several mommies (sows) with their babies (piglets).

Each family has it's own pasture and it's own house. We give the pigs leaves and hay to build a nest in their house. When the nights are cold the adult hogs lay down so that they form a warm "wall" around the piglets who all pile up in the middle.

On a frosty morning you can actually see the steam rising off of the pig pile.

These are our Red Wattle families:

Boar:                        Sows:

Arthur                      Gertrude, Petunia and Babe

Atlas                        Jewel & Gilta

Trailblazer                Muddy Dove & Morning Star

Homer                     Jenna, Joyce, Slim

Right now Grass Dancer is with Homer's family but she doesn't too happy there so she will be moving to Atlas's family soon.

We also have one pasture with all the weaner pigs in it.

As soon as the barn is completed all of the sows will move to the barn until spring.

Friday, December 18, 2009



We've brought the hens up close to the house in their chicken tractor. They are enjoying cleaning up the garden. I'm enjoying watching them. :)

Brown Season



It's that in between time of year. "Brown Season" is what I call it. Not colorful like earlier in the fall and not really winter. It's not very beautiful, but I like it. It has it own charms. Stealy grey skys that melt into firey sunsets. Frosty mornings with the pasture covered in frost diamonds and the winter birds have started to come to the bird feeders outside the kitchen windows.

Nosy pigs! :)

  I went out to the pastures today with the camera. I was trying to get some pics of Jenna's babies. The only problem was every time I stood still for more than a minute the piglets where under my feet, licking my boots and rubbing up against my boots. It was too funny!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

bad habit



Peaches has discovered that if she crawls on her belly she can just fit under the south fence. Then she goes over to the neighbors for a little visit. The one neighbor has 2 dogs in a kennel. She goes over to see them then stays to see if the people will come out and pet her. We've hauled her home and patched her excape holes so many times I've stopped counting.

Yesterday we got a call from our other neighbor on the same fence line. Peaches was in his yard. We jumped in the truck and went after our wayward girl.

She new she was in trouble when we got out of the truck. I called her and she crawled over to me on her belly. Brian had to help me lift her into the truck. She's gotten really heavy.

Back at the house we moved her dog house and food closer to the yard, but still in the field. Then we took the advice of other Pyrennees owners and cabled a car tire to her collar. She's so big she can drag it all around the field. We've even seen her flip the tire up and push her head through it. Then she walks around with a tire necklace.

The tire hasn't stopped her attempts to go under the fence yet but it has made it harder to get under the fence and impossible to negotiate the woods on the other side of the fence. Brian has had to go stuff her under the fence back into the pasture several times. We're hoping that by keeping her from the neighbors houses she will learn that there is no reward to going under the fence.

We'll see.

Monday, December 14, 2009

TIMBER!!!!!


It's never a good thing when you husband calls you at work and starts the conversation with "Now, honey, don't freak out"

"What did you do?" It turns out the DH got his chainsaw caught while felling a tree. It kicked back when it came free and caught him just below the knee cap.

He tried to reassure me with "It's not bad. I didn't really notice the blood until I felt the wind blowing under the skin."

"Just get in the car and go to the emergency room. I'll meet you there."

Forty minutes in a Colts induced traffic jam and 40 minutes travel time and I arrived at Columbus Regional Hospital to find my DH stitched and bandaged.

"You know your power tool priveleges are going to be revoked. And I'm tellng Santa you've been very bad!" I kissed him and the nurses smiled.

After we got home the whole story unraveled. We had lost some pine trees in a storm last summer. After assessing the damage and the other trees in that grove we decided we'd cut them to use for siding for our new barn. They are mature pines and prone to being blown over.

Brian took into his head to go out and start cutting this afternoon. What he didn't do was take his cell phone or tell anyone where he was going. He was lucky this time. He just keeps repeating "it was a freak accident."

I assure you he got a piece of my mind, a lecture from my mother, an email about chainsaw safety from my brother and disapproving looks from various other members of our family.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

First impressions

We finally got to meet DS, Anders' girlfriend, Emily. She and her little one drove up from her home in Kentucky to spend the weekend.

First impression: she's pretty quiet and that's the happiest baby I've seen in quite a while.

Monday morning, I was getting ready to cook breakfast. Emily was sitting at the table and we were chatting.

I asked, " How are your cooking skills?"

Emily pulled a face and said, " I'd like to learn."

So we cooked biscuits and gravy. We talked about ratios of flour to bakind powder, why you cut the butter into the biscuit flour, how to roll dough with a light touch. Why I never make gravy with just our hot sausage. IT'S HOT! And how to add flour and milk to make gravy that doesn't clump and lump.

Second impression: Smart, inquisitive, observant. So far so good.

After breakfast the guys went outside and we cleared up the kitchen. Emily fed the baby. I told her we were going to castrate pigs.

She offered to help. A few minutes later I noticed she was thumbing through one of Anders' farming books. She was definitely looking for something.

"What are you looking for?"

"How to castrate pigs," she said.

I pulled Brian's favorite pig book off the shelf and flipped it open to the illustrated instructions. She dived right in to study the pictures and instructions.

When we headed out to the hog lot, Emily was the designated "Surgeon's Assistant". She held the syringe and the antiseptic. She makes a great assistant.

After we finished making the 9 boar piglets into barrows. We headed back toward the house. Brian quipped, "Anders you better not mess up."

Emily never missed a beat. "That's right. I have the tools and I've read the directions!"

We all laughed - even Anders.

Impression #3: Good sense of humor, pretty unflappable, willing to tackle even the farm work that isn't fun.

As we were going into the house Emily asked me "Do think your mom would mind watching Joel just a little longer? I want to help Anders feed and water all his animals."

"Go ask her," I said. "I'm sure she won't mind."

I laughed as Emily scampered into the house and slid down the hall in her socks with a big smile on her face.

Impression #5: She is definitely a keeper. :)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The joys of having a dinner table

Last night after battening down everything that might blow away, everyone settled down around the kitchen table while Anders, DS, and I cooked dinner.

We talked about the beef we were about to eat as I rubbed three pepper rub on each piece. Wondering how the sirloins from the HIghland beef would taste.

We talked about the weather and the cold wave. And the need to haul in more firewood this weekend. I washed, cut and put butternut squash into the oven to bake.

We talked about the unfortunate turn of events that has left my DSIL out of work and my daughter very stressed and how we had gone to their house this evening and stocked their freezer with meat and milk. We speculated on DSIL's chances of finding another job in his field without the necessity of them moving.

As we talked Anders peeled and cored apples with his new hand cranked peeler/corer. I arranged the apples in a baking dish and stuffed each one with raisins, cinnamon and brown sugar. They followed the potatoes into the oven.

With the sirloins resting and the other food in the oven, we sat around the table with seed catalogs and talked about next year's garden. About high tunnels and the best way to raise beds. About Brian's "GIANT" garden. He wants to raise only varieties that are known to get really really big. About where to put the 3-sisters garden (corn, beans, squash).

Soon it was time to cook the steaks. And we talked about my nieces and nephews and how they are doing in school. How we miss having Lilly and Heather around after school since their daddy is laid off for the winter. We wondered how Eli and his girlfriend Naomi are doing at Rose Hulman.

And dinner was ready so we settled around the table to fill our bodies with good food locally grown. And we talked....


I do believe this world would be a much better place if we all gathered around the dinner table for good food and conversation.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ode to liver & onions

Ok so I don't really write poetry to food, but I do like liver and onions. I know most of you are going - EWWWWW Grosss!!! right now.

I remember liver and onions as a special dinner at our house when I was a kid. We only butchered a beef once a year and there is only one liver. So the nights we had liver & onions were few. Besides my Mom is the best liver cooker in 5 states. Never over or underdone - just perfect. Each slice topped with a heaping pile of carmelized onions. Yummy!

I haven't eaten liver in years. Why? I won't eat liver from a commercially raised animal. I just won't eat liver from an animal that I am not sure how it was raised. And the only way to be absolutely sure what went into the cow is to raise it yourself.

So we did. Two years of feeding and waiting for the calf to grow up. 12 days waiting for the beef to be ready to pick up from the processor. Brian laughed at me when I said I wanted liver and onions. My son wrinkled his nose at the idea. I just smiled and thawed a nice big package of liver.

For dinner tonight we had: sauteed liver with carmelized onions, brussel sprouts and baked sweet potatoes with lemon cheesecake for dessert.

Everybody else said the cheesecake was the best part. I disagree - it was the liver and onions!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Red Wattle Inn and B & B

Brian and our friend Arthur have been working on our barn! It's far from done but it is taking shape. It looks like we'll need to have about 1/2 of the trees that blew over this summer sawed into boards for siding. I like the idea that we will be putting "waste" to good use.

Brian and I will keep working on the barn this week. We're hoping to get 1/2 of it under roof. When we designed the barn we made sure the design would let us put up the south section first - to get the RW O.B. ward set up. We're hoping to have most of it done this week.

Then we'll do the North section. This will have the horse stalls and storage.

Last we will put up the middle section to join it all together.

Ok, I reread that and it is confusing to me and I helped design the barn! Sooo... I'll scan my plan this week and post it here.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Two men and some hammers

Today our friend Arthur came out to help Brian on the barn. They spent most of the day tearing down the brace boards we had put up to hold the posts in place while the cement set up. Each board had to be knocked off and then the nails pulled out and put in a can. Losing a nail would mean getting out the giant magnet and spending time finding it. We can't take a chance on someone eating it.

When I left for work they were still at it with about half the boards down. I texted Brian on my break tonite:
"How goes the barn building?"
"We got 2 boards back up where they go."

It's a start!!
"You're my hero. :)" I texted back

Peaches the Pyrenees

In the last six months, Peaches has gone from a ball of white fluff to a beautiful dog who knows her job - mostly. Sometimes Peaches forgets that guarding the animals is her job. She's still a puppy and she wants to play!

Yesterday I looked out the window and caught her chasing the sheep. I watched a minute to see what she was really up to. She would start to run then the sheep would start to run. Before it all got out of hand I opened the window and yelled "Peaches, NO!"

She sat right down where she stopped and looked at me as if to say: AWWW Mom! I was just playing. I wasn't hurting anybody.

I just looked at her and shook my head. I truly believe she wasn't trying to hurt the sheep, but she's getting really big. When she was littler she stayed with the hens and when she was bored she would hold one of the hens down just to here her squawk. She never hurt them. Once they squawked she would let them up. That's why we moved her over with the cows and sheep until she matures a bit. Still it's better to nip that behaviour before it gets out of hand. In the spring there will be tiny lambs and we can't have Peaches getting everybody all upset.

Lately, Mom says she hears Peaches barking at night. If you listen you can hear her go to the 4 corners of the pasture and bark into the night. I told her that is good. Peaches is letting all the night time bad boys know she is on the job and her bite is as big as her bark!

Great Pyrenees tend to patrol at night and sleep during the day. Peaches' favorite sleeping place is with the calves in a hay pile left over from one of the round bales. That is where I find her stretched out with the steers sound asleep when I go out to feed in the morning. She wakes up when the steers get up. Looks around sleepily, then ambles over to get a pet.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Meet Matilda


Meet Matilda, she is a Large Black Pig. Large Blacks are even more rare than the RW's. We went in halves with my son to buy Matilda when she was just a weaner pig. I'm not sure which half we own- the one that needs to be fed or the half that needs to be cleaned up after. Hmmm??

Anyway, we bought Matilda because she is an "orchard hog". Large Black hogs were traditional used to clean up the ground in orchards of fruit that dropped off the trees. They have been bred not to root as much as other breeds. Anders wants to raise some pigs on his mostly wooded hilly acreage and he didn't want giant pigs like the RW's or pigs that would root and cause erosion. So Matilda fit the bill.

This spring we will cross her against a young RW boar. We should end up with some "Black Wattle" hogs. We aren't trying to create a new breed with this cross just decrease the amount of fat on the carcass by breeding the leaner RW to the fattier Large Black. We'll have to wait to see how it works out.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Dinner

They came, they ate, they left dirty dishes. . .

In years past holiday dinners have been pitch in potlucks. Not this year. For some insane reason my daughter and I decided we would cook Thanksgiving dinner for our family - all 28 of them. I think it started with me saying "Wow! I don't have to work Thanksgiving!"

I left the menu up to my daughter, Lydia. She's the family "foodie". After weeks of her planning and shopping and about 3 days of cooking here is what we served:

Appetizers:
Garden spinach dip with corn chips, deviled eggs, warm chicken spread on Italian breed rounds and spicy barbeque meatballs

Main Course:
Citrus-herb brined - herb roasted Turkey, Ginger-ale glazed ham, Caesar salad, sliced tomatoes, mashed potatoes (10 pounds- I have some really big nephews who love mashed potatoes), green bean casserole, creamy Mac-n-Cheese (a special request from the littlest neice and nephew), gravy, apple-bacon stuffing, sweet potatoes, homemade dill and whole wheat bread with dairy butter.

Dessert:
Pumpkin Roulade, Apple crisp, Fried fruit pies, Chocolate chiffon pie in Oreo crust.

It was way too much food. We could have fed another 10 people easily!
It was fun to show off some of the things we grow so well on the farm: the ham was from one of our Red Wattles, the eggs from our hens, the sweet potatoes were freshly dug from the little patch of experimental vines Anders had planted. The tomatoes were from the hardy vines hanging on in our greenhouse, and the lettuces were the last hardy survivors of a tiny patch I'd covered with spunbounded row covering.

The after dinner wreckage is prodigeous! It's going to take a couple of days to wash up, sort out Lydia's cooking utensils from ours, get all the furniture put back in place and all the temporary tables and chairs put up.

I'm exhausted just thinking about it! I think I'll go to bed and start on it in the morning.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Post Henge

About 3 weeks ago we started setting the posts for our new barn. Six rows of posts straight and plumb, concreted into holes held steady by a seemingly haphazard array of two by fours and one bys.
We've worked on it in the rain. We've worked on it in the dark. We've worked on it in the cold. And one day we actually worked on it in the sunshine for an hour or two.

My mother refers to it as "Post Henge" a monument to persistence.

It's going to be wonderful when it's done. 56 Ft X 56 Ft with farrowing stalls for 12 Red Wattle Momma's, a feed room, stalls for the Haflingers, a cow stall and a calf stall, a milking parlor, a tack room and a place to park our horse drawn wagon and carts. There will be a nice wide alley down the middle to allow the tractor to pass through, too.

Ahhhh... now if we could get the politicians to stop bickering about insignificant things and concentrating on passing legislation creating a 48 hour day, then we could maybe get it done faster. :)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Buckeyes - the chickens not the nuts!

While at the ALBC conference we had the opportunity to taste Buckeye chicken and to talk with a Buckeye breeder. The material quoted below is from the ALBC website breed discription and history.

"Buckeye Chicken
The Buckeye is a dual-purpose breed of chicken with a deep, lustrous red color of plumage. They have yellow legs and skin, and, thanks to their pea comb, are very cold-weather hardy. While Buckeyes adapt readily to a variety of living conditions, they do best under free-range conditions, or conditions where they have room to move around. Because of their active nature they do not do especially well in small confined spaces. Roosters weigh approximately nine pounds; hens weigh approximately six and a half pounds and lay medium-sized, brown eggs.

Buckeyes were developed by Mrs. Nettie Metcalf of Warren, Ohio, and appropriately named after the “Buckeye State.” Buckeyes are unique in the American Class of chickens in that it is the only breed created entirely by a woman. Mrs. Metcalf started by breeding a Buff Cochin male to Barred Plymouth Rock females. This produced what she considered a large, lazy fowl. The next year she purchased a Black-Breasted Red Game male and crossed this male over the half cochin pullets. This cross produced several red offspring and from there she developed the breed. It is interesting to note that her creation predated the introduction of Rhode Island Reds into the mid-west.

In 1896 she learned that her idea of red fowls was not new and that a very popular eastern breed had been developed, the Rhode Island Red. After corresponding with several Rhode Island Red breeders, she decided to call her breed Pea Combed Rhode Island Reds (she even traded stock with several of these breeders). Rather than helping to promote her new breed, she found that calling them Pea Combed Rhode Island Reds was in fact limiting its popularity. So in 1902 she exhibited a pair in the Cleveland, Ohio poultry show as Buckeyes. Within a few years Pea Combed Rhode Island Reds began to disappear.

The Buckeye should not be confused with the Rhode Island Red, even though they share some history. Buckeyes are unique in their body shape: slanted, short but broad back, very meaty thighs, powerful wings and breast. They appear very close to the Cornish, as bred in 1905, in body shape. (It should be noted that the originator indicated that she did not use Cornish in their breeding; the Cornish body shape was simply her goal.) In color the Buckeye is also unique. The color of the Buckeye is darker than that of the original Rhode Island Red (later, the Rhode Island Red was bred for a shade of color even darker than the Buckeye). The Buckeye also has a slate colored bar in the undercolor (fluff) of its back; the Rhode Island Red’s feathers should be red to the skin. Both breeds share the trait of tight feathering – unique in the American Class of poultry.

Buckeyes also have a personality all their own. They are a very active fowl and are noted for being especially vigilant in the pursuit of mice, some breeders comparing them to cats in regard to this ability. They tend to have very little fear of humans and are possibly too friendly. In fact, some males may show a little aggression during breeding season. They also seem to lack the tendency to feather-pick each other (this is a trait worthy of further exploration). The males emit a full range of sounds beyond those typical of many other chicken breeds, including a dinosaur-like roar!

Status: Critical"

We are actively looking for Buckeye breeding stock to start a sustainable flock for both meat and eggs. We plan to build our own incubator and hatching cabinet so that we can keep the entire production on the farm from egg to freezer.

"The Ecology of Place"

That was the title of one of the talks we attended at the ALBC Conference. It refers to the fact that most heritage breeds originally developed the traits needed to flourish in a particular location.

For example a goat breed such as the San Clemente, which developed on an island off of California might not do well on a farm in Maine without costly and time consuming heat and special care. In other words, choosing a heritage breed should involve assessing whether the conditions that you will be raising the animal under are going to be the conditions under which the animals will flourish.

We've been doing a lot of talking lately about appropriate livestock for our farm and our family/lifestyle. We have a list of sorts that we are using now to evaluate the appropriateness of a breed or individual animal.

1. Can it be raised sustainabley? Mostly on pasture. Without a lot of outside inputs.

2. Will it need a special worming program or is the breed able to flourish in spite of the parasites that are indigenous to our area?

3. Will it need special housing? We usually (this summer excluded) have hot humid summers and at least some below zero weather in the winter. How will it do with the wind, rain and snow?

4. We consider mothering ability. This is very important as bottle babies take a lot of time.

5. Can we see ourselves with this breed in 5 yrs, 10 yrs? If I can't imagine going out to feed/water it in 5 yrs then I'm not going to spend time developing a sustainable program.

6. And of course there is the consideration of: will Grandma Marilyn approve? LOL This is my 73 yr old mother who lives with us. She has firm opinions on which animals are worth their salt. :) And she won't hesitate to be heard.

7. Does the breed fit with the other animals we have and the direction we are heading with the farm?

8. Do we enjoy the breed? Feel strongly about it's survival and it's value as a farm animal?

With these questions in mind we have been rethinking a few things on the farm.

ALBC Conference

We spent the 12th through the 15th in Raleigh at the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy Annual Conference. WOW! Great heritage food. An interesting hotel (the rooms were pie shaped and the halls circular). The Maglione's of NC and we both supplied the Red Wattle Pork. We also got a chance to try Buckeye chicken and Devon beef. Yummy! So yummy we are planning on starting our own sustainable flock of Buckeye chickens.

Aside from the food the talks we attended included: Marketing, Incubating, Breed Association discussion, How to work with your processor,"the Ecology of Place", "Pork the other Red Meat".

And in between attending talks we did a lot of talking! We met Red Wattle Association members from across the country. It was nice to put faces with some names.

It was a long drive the Raleigh and we came home tired, but we learned a lot and met some great people who are passionate about saving heritage livestock breeds.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Turning over a new leaf

I haven't been exactly diligent about blogging for several months. So since it's fall I'm going to turn over a new leaf and do better. I am going to blog every day that I'm the chief in charge of farming.

Now that Brian is working 3-4 days a week at the feed mill, I am the chief farmer on his work days. I've been doing all the chores for a couple of weeks now. I have a new found respect for his stamina in getting all the work done around here. And I've lost 10 pounds.

It's really changed my day off. No more sitting around the table drinking tea for hours or sleeping in. My day starts when DH's alarm starts screaming at 7am. He makes the coffee and puts the kettle on for me. We both throw on clothes and I rustle up some breakfast for the 2 of us. At 8 he leaves for work and I head out to do chores.

I tuck Rosy the bottle baby pig's milk under my arm grab the pig treat bucket and head to the garage. Honey and Betty are waiting to be let out of their kennels so they can do their business. I let then run lose while I gather up pails of feed for Rosy and our Large Black hog, Matilda. By now my arms are pretty full.

Out behind the garage, Rosy is grunting and trying to climb our of her brooder and Matilda is running up and down the fence squealing in anticipation of breakfast. Rosy is first. Mix the milk with the feed to make a nice soupy mash and pour in in her dish. Hopefully, without getting too much on her head! Then fill up her water dish.

Next: Matilda. By this time she and my corgi, Honey, have settled into a game of running back and forth along the fence. I sneak her feed into her pan and check to be sure she hasn't dumped her water again. Then I gather up all my feed containers and head back to the garage. Feed containers must be returned to their appropriate place or Brian has a fit when he can't find them on his days. lol

Then it's off to unplug and start the tractor. We keep it on a heater this time of year so that the diesel fuel won't jell. Tractor started. It's time to put Betty in her pen and Honey on her cable. I'd like to take Honey with me while I do chores but I'm afraid she'll get under the tractor.

We have a 55 gallon plastic barrel we put in the bucket of the tractor and secure with cargo straps. I use the garden hose to fill it. It takes a few minutes so I try to use the time tidying up around the yard. There always seems to be something out of place or little messes that need attention. Once the barrel's full, I'm off on the tractor to the yellow garage where we store our feed.

Each pen of pigs needs to be fed. 1 bucket with feed for Samsom and 1 for George. Then a 50 pound bag of feed for Atlas's family and their babies and a 5 gallon bucket of feed for Trailblazer and his girls. Oh and a bucket of chicken feed for the hens and a bucket feed for a cow treat. All of this goes into the tractor bucket with the water barrel.

I always start with Samson and George, because they are bachelors and they get pretty excited when it's time for breakfast! I really don't want them to get out because George is still healing from the last time he got out. He thought it would be a good idea to bother Samson. Samson disagreed.

Feed Atlas's family and then Trailblazer's. The barrel of water will go to the Louisiana hogs in the far paddock. I'll haul another 5 barrels of water during the morning to top off all of the self waterers. In the mean time, I drive on out to the chicken tractor on the far hill and feed the chickens.

I'd like to be able to let the chickens out but we are plagued by hawks right now. They sit and wait in the trees watching to see if they can have a chicken dinner. Not today. I just push the pen forward onto new grass.

Now it's time to tend to the cows and horses. My new skill is being able to fill the barrel with water for the horses and successfully spear a big round bale of hay on the front and one on the back of the tractor. I can even get my whole load out to the field without losing a bale now! I feel so powerful! :)

Drop the bales in the field, give the cows their little grain/beet pulp treat and check on everybody. Water the horses and give them a pat and check their hay. Back to the hose for more water.

When everybody's water is finally full and all the animals have had their breakfast, I sit down for a minute and look at my "TO DO" list. NOW it's time to get some work done!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

COWS!

On the way home last night from picking up Brian's daughter Kacie, my cell phone rang.

"Where are you?" my husband asked. Not pausing for an answer he added, "All the cows are out!"

We were over 15 minutes from home. He hung up. I drove faster.

Meanwhile with the help of my two brothers, a bucket of feed and a large piece of white spunbonded row cover my husband somehow convinced the cows to head back through the gate. By the time we pulled in the driveway the cows were back where they belong. The horses were not.

A quick switch to barn boots and I was off to find something handy for a lead rope. Dog leash- yep- that would work. It's a good thing we have light colored horses. I don't see very well in the dark. It's also a good thing that Bonnie will follow Clyde anywhere- even in the dark.

It didn't take long to get them back in the pasture.

You should have heard all the mooing and bellering going on. Those cows did not want to be penned up they wanted out to room around looking for tasty tidbits we might have missed in the garden.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Freeze

Well it was bound to happen and last night it did. The temp dipped down to 27 and brought our CSA to a screaching halt. When I came home at 5 am everything was a covered with icy diamonds. And this afternoon all the tender green things were black and wilted.

I really enjoyed all the folks who took part in our CSA this year, but I do have to admit I am glad it is over for another year.

Now my efforts will be focused on cleaning out the greenhouse and high tunnel, building a barn, applying compost to the garden area for next year, playing midwife to Red Wattle hogs, planning for next year and cooking on my woodburning cookstove. :)

Ahhh the "slow" season.

Monday, October 12, 2009

New Blog: Piglet's Progress

We have a bottle baby pig right now.



She has her own blog!



You can follow her progress @

http://pigletprogress.blogspot.com/

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Feeding the world one small farm at a time.

At the end of the article I mentioned in the previous blog post, there is a little sidebar it says:
"Organic methods can produce almost as much yield per acre as conventional ones but require more human labor. In a time of scarce jobs, a return to the farm can help both the land and the economy."

When we started our working shares in our CSA, people told us we were just creating our own competition by teaching people to garden. I sure hope so. There is room for everyone when we work with the earth not against her.

Nothing would make me happier than having a network of small farmers in our area to feed our community wholesome, sustainable food. We really want to help others realize their dreams of becoming farmers whether it's with a small garden and few hens or 10 acres and a goal of independence.

"THE REAL COST OF CHEAP FOOD"

Last week I was in the dentists office browsing through magazines when I came accoss this title on the cover of Time for August 31, 2009. WOW!

I turned to the article on page 31. The article points out the hidden costs of producing cheap meat and grain: soil degredation and erosion, rising concern over antibiotic resistant bacteria in farm animals, global climate change. It goes on to point out that this style of farming uses up 19% of US fossil fuels. That's a lot!

It points out that the current "a food system - from seed to 7-eleven- that generates cheap , filling food...is also a principal cause of America's obesity epidemic."

The article was accompanied by a little chart with a dollar bill on the left and on the right what that dollar could buy:

1200 calories of potato chips or 875 calories of soda or 250 calories of veggies or 170 calories of fresh fruit

Geez! But would you feel better and be healthier if you ate the veggies or the fresh fruit? Yes.

One of our CSA shareholders explained his family's philosophy on food like this: He said, they would rather pay more for better quality food. This approach means they eat less, but much better. No one in their family is overweight.

Hmmmm.

You can read the article for yourself by clicking here: http://www.pewtrusts.org/news_room_detail.aspx?id=54765

Let me know what you think.

Finding the golden triangle

The farming version of the isosceles triangle.

I used to think about farming in a more linear way. More like a time line. Now I think of farming in more interesting geometric shapes.

Now I think of our farm systems are made up of interlocking/interdependent circles. The circle of the seasons, weather patterns, animal growth and reproduction, plant growth, decomposition, the wildlife on the farm and under the soil. It all fits together in an ever shifting pattern interlinked circles.
3-D circles.
When I imagine it I think of it in space time. 2 dimensions just seems too limiting.

Oh yes... I did start out talking about triangles. Best to get back to that.

The golden triangle of farming. That perfect balance between number of animals, cost of production, return from product that allows the farmer to make a living. Why a golden triangle? Because if one element is out of whack the whole thing falls apart and the farmer has to struggle to put it all back in balance.

For example: We fell into the more must be better way of thinking about our laying flock. We grew to 200 laying hens. We sold our eggs at $2.25/doz. We often had excess eggs which we could not sell and we would feed them to our pregnant sows for the added calcium and protein.
At the end of the day, we were losing money and we were working ourselves to death.

We had lost the golden triangle. So we scaled back with the help of a near miss tornado and some pretty severe culling. Now we have one little hen pen with 45 birds. They are just starting to lay consistently. Our feed costs are in line with our output of eggs. We don't have any surplus eggs now. In fact, we often don't have enough eggs for everyone that wants them. We are taking the advise of several of our egg customers and increasing our per dozen price to $3 in 2010. We won't be wholesaling to the feed mill anymore. Still our triangle is a little lopsided.
We're working on that. We plan to grow our flock of layers slowly. Stopping often to analyze whether we have created the golden triangle. At the point that we have just enough eggs to sell and feed ourselves balanced with the feed costs and housing costs we'll stop.

That will be our golden triangle for egg production. I'll keep you posted on how we're doing.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Support heritage pork with your fork!

Do What?

That's right. To save our critically rare Red Wattle hogs from extinction we need to eat them. You see if there is no demand for RW pork then there is no demand for RW's. That would mean the end of RW's forever.

So this month we took 4 of our pasture raised, hormone & antibiotic free RW's to the processor. We got them back today. Every nook and cranny in every freezer we own is full of RW pork!
One ham never even made it to the freezer. I put it right into the slow cooker. Unfortunately, I had to go to work before it was done, but Brian called a bit ago. He said I shouldn't count on there being any leftovers after tomorrow. :)

I can hardly wait to cook up some pork chops and make sausage gravy and biscuits. This is pork the way I remember it. Back when hogs were raised on pasture not on concrete. When pork wasn' t "the other white meat". This is real pork for real people- juicy, flavorful and filling.

We are offering a limited amount of our RW pork for sale by the pound @ $4/lb.
You can check available cuts, reserve your cuts and arrange for pickup at the farm by emailing us at: kissmygrassfarm@hotmail.com or call Brian @ 812-521-1063.

We invite you to join us for a walking tour of the farm when you come out to pick up your heritage pork.

Help save the RW's and eat well too!

Monday, September 7, 2009

We have a new cookie!

Double Stuff, the Belted Galloway FINALLY had her calf this evening. Baby Oreo is doing just fine. I'll post pics as soon as I can get some tomorrow.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Nnot the other white meat - real pork for real people!!

We are taking our first batch of 4 Red Wattle Hogs to the processor on the 16th!

We can hardly wait to have suasage, pork chops and ham again! We won't have any bacon out of this bunch because the bellies have been prepurchased by Chris Ely of Goose The Market in Indy.

If you'd like to try some of our heritage pork there will be some cuts available. Contact Brian at:
812-521-1063

Not exactly the Midas touch. . .

This week Brian has had the worst luck. He fell in a hole with his dad's tractor.

The bailer broke. Parts won't get here until Tuesday or Wednesday. I'm starting to wonder if we're ever going to get our hay up.

Then while he was trying to drop the pickup bar out of the bailer so he could figure out what was wrong with it, he ran over his cell phone with the tractor. The phone is terminal. :(

And then the A/C went out on his truck.

I told him please, do not get too close to my CRV. I needed to get to work today! :)

Friday, August 21, 2009

We need to get small

No not Alice in Wonderland small....

Brian and I have been doing alot of soul searching and number crunching this last week. We've decided that our farming endeavors need to get really small for a while.
Why did we come to this decision? Well, we've been pretty stressed this year with all the setbacks from wind and weather and it's started taking it's toll. We need to build a barn, put up fence, put out a fall garden and we still don't have our hay in. Our family obligations and needs have changed too. Brian's youngest daughter has moved in with us and her older sister has given us our first grandbaby, my daughter is getting married and my son and his wife will soon start on their homestead. This week my mother fell and broke her arm. She needs a good bit of extra help with things while she is in a cast. Our family needs us. We've decided it's time to pull back and give ourselves room to breath.
We are going to sell half of our heritage cattle and sheep. We won't be raising pastured poultry to sell next year and we are cutting our laying flock down to the bare neccessity of 35 hens. We've decided to concentrate next year on putting food by for our family. We will still have some produce to sell, but we won't be supporting a CSA. We will have pork and lamb to sell next year, but no beef or chicken.
We want to have time to go fishing with Kacie (one of her favorite pastimes) and play with the baby and to ride and drive our Haflingers. We want to have time to show folks around the farm when they come to visit without that little voice in the back of my mind listing off all the things that need to be done. In short, we've decided to cut back so that we are having fun farming again not stressing out all the time.

Monday, August 10, 2009

3 steps forward and 2 steps back

Well it's been a while since I've posted anything. Posting wasnt' an option from Tuesday through Saturday - we didn't have electricity due to a big storm/near miss tornado.

It's been such a trying year so far: losing the barn, an over abundance of rain and now we've lost the eggmobile about 30 chickens and over a dozen trees with this storm. I always say if life give you lemons make lemonade.

This time it is going to be hard. We're discussing various possibilities for barns and chicken houses. Our thinking is running toward buildings that are closer to the ground and not so prone to take flight.

In the mean time, there is hay to be made, weeds to pull, fence to build and a wedding to get ready for.

Tomorrow is another day. We'll see what it brings.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Be very very quiet we are hunting roosters....hehehe

After the near tornado blew through our place we discoverd that my son, Anders', rolling rooster pen had blown apart and all 6 roosters were running amuck. We called and left Anders a message on his cell and waited for him to come by after work.

At 4:30 he arrived with what appeared to be an oversized butterfly net and proceeded to gather up his roosters on by one. That really makes it sound easier than it was. Actually, the roosters had no intention of going back into the pen.

As Anders approached they split off in 6 directions running through the tall grass with their tail feathers flying. Anders darted after the nearest one net at the ready. It led him on a merry chase three times around the house. Then SWOOSH! down came the net. Anders tucked the rooser under his arm, carried him back to the pen and dropped him in. The indignant rooster paced back and forth looking for a way to freedom.

It was incredibly funny to see my longlegged, red headed son running about the yard chasing one rooster after the other. I sent Kacie in to get the camera - we had to have pictures!

As Anders ran by, I asked if he wanted some help.

"Nope!" he laughed. " This is more challenging. And I'm having fun!"

About an hour later the roosters were all safely back in their pen and Anders had gone on to take care of his other animals with a smile on his face.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Turkey disaster!

One thing that is a constant in farming is that you just can't control everything. The sun will shine when it shines, the rain will fall whether you need it or not.

We were driving to Louisiana. Anders was doing evening chores while we were gone and Dillon, Brian's oldest daughter's fiance was doing morning chores. It was usual for them to check in while they were doing the chores.
Morning update from Dillon was bad news: 2 baby turkeys dragged from the pen and partially eaten. From the discription it sounded like a raccoon. Evening report: all turkeys dead. Looks like a weasel got in.
Brian just sighed and said, "Well that's farming." as he hung up the phone. I wanted to cry when he told me. Those 25 little turkeys had cost us $8.50 each for heritage Midget Whites when we bought them as day old poults. What an awful way to go for the turkeys. Weasels and raccoons aren't exactly known for their gentle ways.
So now we are left with nothing to show for all the hard work, a marauding weasel/raccoon on the lose and we have to disapoint everyone who reserved a turkey. There just isn't time to order more poults and have them ready for the holidays.
What do we do next year? Well after spending a lot of our driving time discussing it, we've decided next year we will only just raise a few turkeys for ourselves. Nothing fancy just some poults from the feed store. No big investment. And we'll tighten up the cage and set a few traps.

Sampson the huge










This is a picture of HC Wenglar's Red Wattle Hog Sampson taken back in the 1970's. According to the family this big guy weighed close to 1800 pounds. That's one big hog!!
We don't have one that big yet, but we are breeding for larger hogs with a nice lean build, long heavy shoulders and large hams.

Louisiana Sausages

Yummy!!
Ronnie Andrus, longtime Red Wattle hog breeder, gave us some sausages to take home. Ronnie and his family butcher their own hogs at home and Ronnie smokes the sausages, bacon and ham in the smokehouse he's built out behind the house. He showed us his smoke house. A room about 6' X8' coated in black from years of use with a hanging rack and fire pit dug into the dirt floor. The smokey smell reminded me of the best ham I ever had.
I cooked Ronnie's sausages today for lunch. Delicious! I can't wait for our RW to be ready to butcher in December. Brian and I want to try our hand at sausage making and smoking. :)

Detour to the beach

This week we finally made the trip down to Louisiana to pick up Red Wattle hogs from Ronnie Andrus. We sort of took the long way in order to drop my mom off at a friend's house in Alabama. Then Brian's daughter, Kacie thought since we were already in Alabama it would be a good idea to go on down to Gulf Shores to the beach.
Sounded silly at first, but it was a good idea. We spent several hours playing in the waves. It helped work the kinks out from the long drive and it was very relaxing.
The only problem was we were covered with sea salt the rest of the day. My hair felt like old straw!
After we left the beach we headed over to Louisiana and up to Ronnie's to pick up the hogs.

The pic is Brian and Kacie in the waves.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Thoughts on pig raising

It's time to look at our pig operation and make plans for how to maximize production, sustain marketing/sales and keep the quality of life up for our hogs.
First we need to decide just how many pigs we want to keep as our breeding stock. We know we want to preserve the line of hogs we are bringing home this week from Louisiana as a closed herd. And we want to keep the 3 sows we have (Dancer, Petunia and Gertrude) with another boar as our second herd as they have different bloodlines. That leaves us with the problem of which boars to keep. Currently we have 3 boars and the new boar will make 4 . That's just too many.
We know we will be keeping Samson. He's more of a pet than a breeder, because he's getting up there in years. We just love having him and he's such a good farm mascot. We're planning a retirement pen for him. I know it's sentimental, but that's ok.
We will have 2 boars from Louisiana. We brought George home as a little guy earlier this year. He is the nice dark burgundy color we like in our RW's. He's not old enough to breed yet, so we don't know what sort of piglets he'll father. The new boar is a coppery orange color. Not our preference, but he's a proven breeder. Then there's Arthur. We've had him since he was a baby. He's friendly, quiet, a proven breeder and the only curly coated pig we have. Everybody loves Arthur.
As you can see they all have their good points, but we can only keep 2 breeders in addition to Sampson. Got any thoughts or comments?
The next thing we have in the works is new pasture. We've had to keep the pigs up most of this summer in small lots because the new fencing is not in. Dillon & Brian are tearing out the old fence now. We're hoping to have 3 new large pastures fenced in by fall. These larger pastures will have woven wire fencing parameters with a hot wire at nose level. We'll be able to subdivide them with temporary electric fence to rotate the hogs. Each pasture will have it's own loafing shed and a "wallow". The plan is to keep each "herd" in it's own pasture and use the third pasture for the growing market hogs.
We'll be moving the farrowing into the new barn. Each sow will have her own pen with waterer and feeder and a built in baby bumper and a permanent heat lamp for the little ones.
Of course all of this costs money. We've been lucky enough to find posts at a good price and we're bartering for some fencing and gates. We still need more fencing and the barn is a whole seperate issue. It looks like it's going to go up in stages as we're able.
Ahh projects! They never end and we are continually reanylizing the possibilities, pros and cons.
If you have any thoughts on our RW hog projects, let us know!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Baby Brunch

Brian's oldest daughter is expecting her first child. We're excited about our first grandchild. :) I wanted to have a baby shower for Katie, but because I work nights on the weekends I had to get a little creative. So I decided to throw a "Baby Brunch".
I invited Katie's guests and family to show up at 10:30 am for brunch. On the buffet, I set up Apricot/Cream cheese stuffed backed French toast, hash brown casserole, sausage balls with dipping sauces, juice, and coffee. Katie loves pink so the table cloth, napkins and plates were pink with ribbon curls and pink flowers for decoration on the table.
We had a nice brunch and watched the slide show of Katie when she was little then opened presents and visited and traded baby tales. It was nice, low key and met Katie's criteria of "no stupid games that measure my belly!"

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The return of frogs


There have been a lot of articles in the last few years about declining populations of amphibians. Amphibians are very sensitive to changes in their environments so they make a good barometer for the health of the local ecosystem.
On a very local level- here on the farm- we are seeing an increase in the number and the varieties of frogs and toads this year.
We are excited that they are back and seem to be thriving. Above is a picture of a tiny frog we found on a morning glory in our yard this morning. Kacie took the pic while I held the leaves out of the way

Monday, July 13, 2009

Economic downturn hits the farm

Well, it finally happened. We've started to feel the effects of tighter budgets here at the farm. Our chicken sales have fallen off. I guess folks have to cut corners on their food budgets to make ends meet. It's sad that people have to eat inferior food to get by but it's not economically feasable for us to raise our superior chickens and sell them for less. So we have to get our production in line with the demand. We've made the tough decision to cancel our last 3 batches of chicks for the year.

For those of you who have chickens preordered, that means you'll need to pick up your chickens from the 4 batches we have on the farm now. We'll be processing the next batch on the 15th.

The Tour

WOW! An unbelievable number of folks braved the rain on Saturday to join us for a walk around the farm during the "Secret Garden Tour". They showed up with their umbrellas and raincoats ready.
It was a really soggy day with showers off and on. I think I went through 5 pairs of socks and 3 pairs of jeans in the course of the day. Rain or no rain all but the last tour of the day went as planned. Just as we were going to set out, it started to rain, then it started to thunder then the lightning showed up. I didn't think it would be a good idea to walk around toting portable lightning rods (umbrellas) in the fields, so I invited folks to come back in the morning and take the tour.
During the night the storm clouds blew away and took the humidity and most of the heat with them. Sunday dawned clean and crisp with blue skies. Lots of folks came out and met the animals and learned about our CSA and why we do what we do.
It was a lot of work and a lot of fun. Now we are making plans for next year. We will be installing a "spring", waterfall and garden pool soon. And we're hoping to have Bonnie and Clyde working well pulling the wagon so that we can tour the farm via horsedrawn wagon. That will save my shoes!



In the mean time, if you would like to tour the farm, give us a call at 812-521-1063 to arrange a time or drop us an email at kissmygrassfarm@hotmail.com.



See you at the farm!



Dot

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Secret Garden Tour 2009

Just wanted to to drop you a note about the Secret Garden tour in Brown County, taking place July 11 & 12th.
The tour features gardens that are not usually open to the public. It is sponsored by the garden club and is one of their major fundraisers for the year. Proceeds from the tour are used for local projects like landscaping for Habitat for Humanity homes. It is a driving tour featuring 5 stops throughout Brown County.
We are very excited to be the first working garden featured on the tour! We are planning to offer walking tours of the farm on the hour. The tour will include not only the gardens but an introduction to our pastured poultry and the egg mobile, a stop at the apiary, a visit with our heritage cattle herd, the Haflingers & Shetland sheep and a chance to feed a biscuit to our critically rare Red Wattle Hogs.
We are looking forward to visit with folks and to re-aquainting them with family farming and where their food comes from.
Tickets are available at the Visitors and Convention Bureau all week or from a garden club member or at any of the stops on the tour. Below is the information from the Bureau's site with a link to the brochure.

Secret Gardens of Brown County TourJuly 11, 2009 - July 12, 2009
Third Annual Secret Gardens of Brown County Tour.... This self-guided tour of five gardens lets you see a secret area of Brown County, never shared before... Brown County Garden Club members open their gardens, sharing their secrets and selling plants, seeds and garden items! Map and brochure included when tickets are purchased. Tickets available at the Brown County Visitors Center. All proceeds support the Brown County Garden Club's activities in the community, including landscaping for Brown County Habitat for Humanity Homes.
Times: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Location: Various gardens in rural Brown County
Phone: 812.988.6927; 800.753.3255
Admission: $10.00 adults; under 13 free
Here is a link to the brochure: http://www.browncounty.com/docs/Event-2009SecretGardenbrochure.pdf

Come on out and support a good cause!

See you at the farm,
Dot & Brian

Friday, July 3, 2009

July 4th - Freedom to sell baked goods at Farmers Market

House Bill 1309 passed into law about a month ago. We've been waiting very impatiently for it to go into affect July 1st. It's a great thing for home based vendors and consumers alike. It means we are now able to sell baked goods we've produced in our home kitchens at the farmers market. . . with the appropriate labeling of course.

Labeling requirements include: contact information, common name, weight or count, date processed, ingredients listed from most to least and the official Dept. of Health disclaimer.

"This product was home produced and processed and the production area has not been inspected by the State Department of Health. " - in at least 10 point font.

It's hard to get all that on a label small enough that it doesn't cover up the whole package! It does allow you to post one label/sign with the required information on say a cookie jar so you can take out just the number of cookies the customer wants. That makes it easier.

We have been feverishly baking at our house in preparation for market in Nashville in the morning with loaves of cinnamon, dill, whole wheat and white bread; banana, blueberry and mixed berry muffins, and lots of yummy cookies.

Come on out and join us!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Peaches

Our Pyrennees puppy, Peaches, is on the job out at the egg mobile. :)
The other day the neighbors were picking up their silage in the field north of our line. Big trucks and machinery were coming and going all afternoon. It was loud and dusty.

Peaches decided all those machines were a threat to her charges. She gathered up all the hens and the sheep under the egg mobile. Then stood facing the "threat" and barking.

Good dog!! She may be only 10 weeks old but she's on the job!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Lessons learned

Important lessons we have learned this year:

1. Never wait until later to put the sides on your barn. We lost ours to straight line winds because it had no sides so it acted a bit like an umbrella in a windstorm.
2. Chickens should NOT be housed over winter in the high tunnel. It's disgusting to clean out in the spring.
3. Heifers don't always give you any sign that they are about to calf. Rosie never showed any of the classic signs: bagging up, loosening in the rear before she dropped her calf. By the way we named her calf "Surprise".
4. A porcine lesson: If there is a way to escape from the pen at all they will find it, but you won't until too late.
5. Pigs can and will climb stairs.
6. If the cows are out, it is a myth that they will go back into the pasture where they came out. The reality is they will wonder up and down the fence line, gallop across the neighbors alfalfa field and you will eventually give up and cut a hole in the fence to drive them through.
7. Sunrises are beautiful even on mornings when a phone call from the neighbors about your escaped animals is the reason you are up to see the sun rising.
8. No matter how much you plan, things move at their own pace.
9. There's always more that needs to be done than there are hours in the day.
10. Deer and rabbits will eat all of your strawberries if you don't protect them.
11.Learning new things and sharing what you know with others is fun and very gratifying.
Can't wait to see what we learn in the second half of the year! :)


Of Farm Tours and Ladies' Luncheon

This week we hosted the garden club at the farm. Eighten ladies came out to the farm to enjoy a tour and lunch.
While my daughter, Lydia, and my mom prepped the food, I took the ladies for a hike around the farm.
We started with the little chicks in the brooder that Brian and Kacie were loading up in the tractor bucket to haul out to pasture. Then we walked out through the tall grass to the 6 week old chicks and then stopped by to see the ten week old chickens that are ready to process this week. It was a nice way to show how the birds grow and change.
We hiked down through the woods, stepped over the little run in the bottom and headed up The hill with sheep scattering every which way. At the Egg Mobile I introduced the hens and the new puppy. Of course everyone fell in love with Peaches our little pyrennees puppy.
One of the ladies had her granddaughter with her. She wanted to touch a chicken. So I opened up the nestbox door and let her pet one of the hens. The hen wasn't too sure she liked the experience but she didn't want to get off of her eggs either. We also found 3 eggs out in the pasture. I had the little girl put them in her pocket. When we got up to the pig pens I let her feed the eggs to our Red Wattle hogs.
Then we had a little visit with the cows and their calves. Everyone laughed when they saw the "skunk" calf. We left the cows and headed back down the driveway. It was a little to wet to walk in the gardens but we talked about the wide beds we use, all the different varieties we are growing and our plans for the future.
After all the hiking, lunch sounded pretty good. Lydia served: Bloody Mary's, cucumber sandwiches, a lovey salad of our garden lettuces, goat cheese and pears with her homemade creamy dijon dressing. She followed the salad with gouda stuffed turkey burgers garnished with a roasted apple ring and arugula on a home made bun with a side of baked seasoned sweet potato chips.
For dessert there was a layered banana cream pie made with real made-from-scratch pudding and fresh whipped cream. Yummy!!
It made for a really busy day, but I think the ladies all had a good time and noone went away hungry.
Now we are gearing up for the Secret Garden tour in mid-July. This is a fundraiser for the garden club which allows folks to see gardens that normally are closed to the public. We will be giving tours of the farm on the hour. I'm really looking forward to it.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

And after the rain comes the rainbow...

HURRAH! the weather report doesn't call for any significant rain for the next 4 days.
Hopefully that will dry things out enough to finish getting the first plantings into the garden. :)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Dexter bull + White Park cow = skunk

Yep that's right now we have a skunk calf. lol
We bred our Dexter bull, Will to our 2 White Park cows. White Park calves are usually white with a black noses, black in their ears and black "freckles" on their backs and legsThe crossbred calf came out with a black body and head and a white stripe down his back like a skunk.
Looks like 2009 is in black and white around here :)

Pasture raised, hormone & antibiotic free all natural

They're here again - our pasture raised, hormone free all natural chicken!! This year we changed the type of broiler we raise to the Poulet Redbro. These new birds are more agressive foragers and have a more natural growth pattern than the Cornish Cross.
It's been a challenging spring to raise chickens on pasture with all the cool wet weather. We've kept plastic sheeting over 3 sides and the top of each chicken tractor to retain warmth and protect the growing birds from the weather. We've had to move the tractors more often than usual because of the wet ground. But it's all been worth it!
We'll be processing our first batch of broilers this week.
Every spring the first batch is like learning how to process birds all over again. It takes Brian and I a while to get our rythm back. Once we hit our stride, we'll be able to process about 100 birds in a day thanks to the scalder and chicken plucker that Brian built.
Some folks wonder why we process all the birds we raise ourselves. There are a couple of reasons: 1. Chickens that aren't stressed out from travelling hundreds of miles to a processing plant are better tasting and tenderer. 2. We like to know how the meat is handled.
In a processing plant, chicken carcasses can soak in cooling vats for hours in water that is changed infrequently.
On the farm we take care not to stress the birds any more than is absolutely necessary. We pay close attention to how the meat is cooled and handled and packaged.
We believe that you will taste the difference, but you won't know if your don't try it.
Try one and decide for yourself.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Spring Planting

It's wet, muddy, wet, soggy Oh and did I mention it's wet?
This has been one of the wettest springs I can remember. Last week 2 of our CSA Workshareholders, Nate and Danny, came out and braved the rain with me to plant all the cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower that had been waiting in the greenhouse.
After a very soggy morning, we came inside to dry off and enjoy a lunch of homemade chicken and noodles. ( Both the chicken and the noodles were homemade! lol)
By this time it was truly pouring down, so we headed to the greenhouse. The guys rearranged flats , cleared weeds and tilled up about 1/3rd of the greenhouse so that we could tuck in 39 tomatoe plants. Why 39? Well that's just what would fit in the space we had to work with.
Now we are hoping the wind and some sun will dry things out so we can till more garden and get the strawberries, asparagus and bramble fruits weeded and mulched. Oh and maybe the sheep will finally dry out enough that we can shear them!

In the mean time, the blue herons and the geese are enjoying the ponds and I'm enjoying watching them and listening to the frogs. :)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Pile O' Piglets

These are Petunia's piglets when they were just a day or so old. I love this pic. Baby piglets are sooooo cute!!

Friday, April 24, 2009

We're getting an LGD!!

And this is her! Not much of a guard dog right now. She's just 2 weeks old now and staying with her momma and brothers and sisters, but she'll be home in 4 weeks. Then she'll learn all about being a good guardian for our other animals.
Isn't she cute!!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Our hens are going mobile!

Well we finally got it done! The Egg Mobile rolled out of the garage last night - just barely. Brian had to do some manual moving of the rear end to get it aligned just right with the rollup door. Brian added the roofing in the dark while I cut holes in all those kitty litter buckets so that they would work for nest boxes.
This morning, with the help of my son, we rangled all of the hens out of the high tunnel greenhouse, up the ramp and into their new home. Once they were all safely inside, Brian towed the Egg Mobile with the tractor out to the pasture.
As soon as we opened the door, hens came pouring down the ramp. It didn't take long for them to be happily foraging in the grass and leaves.
Tonite when it gets to be around dusk, Brian will go out and close the hens up in their house so they'll be safe for the night.

Like building a boat in your basement

It was raining. We needed to get the new Egg Mobile built. So, naturally we pulled the wagon into the garage and started nailing. The more we worked on it the more I felt like the guy who builds a boat in his basement and then can't get it out!

After we stood the walls up, we measured. OK. We had 3/4 of and inch vertical clearance if the roll up door was pushed up as high as it would go.

Wow, that was a close one!

The picture is of the wall of kitty litter buckets we are using for nest boxes. They are free at the recycling center, just the right size and easy to clean. The perfect nest box. At least they are now that I cut a hole in the bottom of each bucket for the hens to go in and out.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Brown County VIllage Market - NEW LOCATION!

It's time again for Saturday farmers market in Nashville! This year the Brown County Historical Society is allowing the market to use the lumber building that was part of the old True Value Hardware (between E. Gould and E. Mound Streets). This is a great location. Now we can hold the market even it it rains. :)
It wasn't the prettiest space when we started out, but Brian and I have been painting a big farm mural on the old cement block walls to brighten things up.
This Saturday will be our 3rd Saturday at market. Due to the really, really wet weather we've been having there aren't a whole lot of veggies available yet. We've been taking herb plants, lamb, persimmon pulp and free range eggs. And we've been taking orders for our pasture finished broilers and holiday turkeys. We'll be processing chickens this week so we hope to have fresh frozen broilers available at market this weekend.
We are also looking for musicians to play on market days. We don't have a budget to pay musicians but we are offering a booth space to set up and the opportunity to "pass the hat".
It's good exposure and a fun place to play. If you know someone who is interested in performing please have them call Brian (he's the Market Master) at 812-521-1063 to reserve a Saturday space!
We're also saving one space per week for not-for-profit groups to use for fundraisers/information booth. If you know a not-for-profit group that would like to use this free space have them call Brian to reserve a Saturday.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Baa Baa white sheep....

We finally have a white lamb this spring! Hickstick had a pretty little white lamb with a black nose. Of course she had it on a miserable, rainy day. Brian was standing in the yard talking to the arborist about removing a tree that was endangering the house and garage. He looked over at the pasture just as the lamb was born. Now if she'll let us get close enough we'll find out if it's a boy or a girl. :)

Monday, April 13, 2009

When George of the Jungle and Bayou Babe moved North

At the end of March, Brian and my niece Sarah made a whirlwind trip to Louisiana. You see Brian had found a herd of Red Wattle hogs that descended directly from the original Wenglar Red Wattles. Ronnie Andrus had been raising a closed herd of RW's since he got his first ones from H.C. Wenglar. Brian and Ronnie had agreed to trade baby boars and Brian bought a gilt from Ronnie. So the 2 hogs were loaded into the crate in Brian's pickup and whisked away north. They spent 10 days quarantined in the stock trailer. It was a good thing they did because these two needed a little gentling down. Brian built them a special pen where they could be kept away from our other RW's. We rangled over names for them and finally settled on George of the Jungle and Bayou Babe.
Then we had to make the big move from the trailer to the new pen. Problem was the ground was too soggy to back the trailer across the yard to the gate. So we roped George and hoped babe would follow. That little boar had grown a bit since he arrived in the farm and he didn't want anything to do with leaving the trailer... or walking across the yard. We had to rope him around his middle, pass a rope through his mouth and push and pull at the same time. That pig was sure we were going to eat him! He squealed and dug his heals in.
I'm sure we were quite the comical site. Me pulling, Brian pushing and the little old Babe traipsing along behind us like nothing was wrong.
Once we got them into the new pen. George stopped squealing, looked around, stepped out of the rope and started rooting as if to say, "Hmmm not so bad. Is that all you wanted?"

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Rhubarb

The rhubarb by the sunroom is up and ready to pick so I thought I'd share a couple of recipes that I'm planning to try.
Rhubarb Nut Bread

1 1/2 cup brown sugar 2 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup liquid shortening 1 1/2 cups fresh rhubarb, diced
1 egg 1/2 cup nuts, chopped
1 cup sour milk (buttermilk) 1 tsp salt
1 tsp soda 1 tsp vanilla

Topping: 1/2 cup sugar, 1 T. butter

Stir in the ingredients in the order given. Pour into two well-greased floured loaf pans. Fill pans 2/3 full. Sprinkle topping evenly over each. Bake at 325 deg. for 40 minutes.

Rhubarb Honey Pie
3 cups rhubarb, cut up butter
1 cup honey 2 crust pastry
2 1/2 T tapioca
Mix honey and tapioca together and pour over rhubarb. Pour into pastry-lined pie pan. Dot wiht butter. Put on top crust. Crimp edges. Brush top with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 350 deg. for 50 minutes.

Let me know if you try these and how they turned out!

Dot

Friday, April 10, 2009

Rain, rain go away come again another day...

It's raining again. The yard is a swamp the garden in a swamp. The animals have all moved to the highest points on the farm to get dry ground.

The only critters on our farm who are enjoying this weather are the fish and the frogs. The ponds are fuller than I've seen them in years and years. Don't get me wrong. I know April showers bring May flowers, but I really need to get out in the garden. I have tons of stuff that really should be in the ground by now.

Ahhh well, this is the day the lord hath made... so I'm going to do some reading, make some meatloaf, bake some bread, finish the laundry and clean the home office...

The sun will come out tomorrow....

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The secret


We have been looking for years for the secret to peeling hard boiled eggs made from farm fresh eggs.
We finally found it!!

Put cold water in the pot. Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Add your eggs and cook like you normally do. Run cold water over the cooked eggs and peel.

We tried it and it works. :)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

And there she was...


a beautiful butterfly.

It's been horribley cold and depressingly wet for the last few days, but this morning when we woke the sun was streaming through the windows. There in a puddle of sunshine was a butterfly warming herself and drying her wings.
I took several pictures and waited for it to warm up outside. Then I coaxed her to climb up on my fingers and carried her outside where she caught a whisp of a warm breeze and was gone.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Garage cleaning day #2

Well, Brian didn't get both garages done. So we are working on the red garage together. I'm going through a bunch of stuff of my parents'. It's slow and it makes me cry from time to time when I find pictures and little things that were my dad's.
I miss my dad. He died suddenly just over a year ago. He left a pretty big hole in our family.
It's nice to find some of the things that got packed up and put away when he passed away and mom came to live with us.
I cleaned up the brass barometric clock he got for "25 years of loyal service" and put it on my china cabinet.
It looks nice there and it makes me smile.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Brian storms the castle!

Yesterday, Brian got really brave, put on his armor and set out to tame the yellow garage.
The yellow garage was for years the place where everything my parents didn't need but didn't want to throw away went. And for the last year it has been the place where we stored things for "future projects", my son stored his "off the grid" building materials and my daughter's fiance parked his little girl's electric jeep.
Cleaning and organizing it had really been intimidating us.
It took Brian most of the day and he filled the dumpster X2 but it's all clean and tidy now.
Brian felt so good about getting the yellow garage cleaned and organized yesterday that today he's tacklin the red garage.
I'm sort of glad I'm working this weekend. Then again I wonder what he threw away that I'm gonna miss.
:)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Stimulus package

"if half the families in Indiana shifted $6.25 of their current weekly food budget to the purchase of Indiana grown or produced local food that this effort would provide an annual contribution of 300 million dollars into the local Indiana economy." That is what Victoria Wessler of goinglocal-info.com wrote in a recent article on her blog.
WOW! What a stimulus package! The economy benefits and our families eat well.
Hmmm.... that's the price of some tomatoes, a bag of lettuce, and a bunch of green onions.
It's amazing how a lot of little actions can multiply.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

It's the BUSY SEASON

Lambs, calves, piglets, chicks, seeds, taters, seedlings, open the greenhouse, close the greenhouse, fence building, building out buildings... and on and on....

It's busy, but wonderful. I apologize for being less than regular on this blog. So I've made up my mind to carve out a few minutes each day to blog. I've got lots of things I want to talk about.

Stay tuned. . .

Garden Work Shareholders meeting

On Wednesday, evening we had our first garden work shareholders meeting. We are very happy to have all the folks working at the farm this year. It looks like we will all be learning from one another. What fun!

We still have a few openings for workshare and regular share CSA members. So if you've been holding off or thought it was too late, just fill out the application on our website or give us a call.

Dot & Brian
kissmygrassfarm.net

Of wooly boogers and DIY shearing



Our shetlands need a haircut!
This year we decided we would do the job ourselves. We read books, asked advice and bought a pair of shears.
So now we're ready to do the deed. Next week, Brian and I will round up the sheep, put down a piece of plywood to keep the wool clean and go at it.
This is definitely going to be an adventure... I'll let you know how it turns out. :)

Early morning surprizes

I looked out the window and counted the sheep as I sipped a cup of hot tea this morning. 1,2,3,...9,10, 11. Okay all the adults accounted for. Babies, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Six! Black Beulah had a pretty little black lamb some time between dark and breakfast time.

So far this year all of the lambs are black with varying degrees of white on their heads. Zarah's twins have been dubbed: Stinky and Flower by my friend, Jessica's children. It fits these two are always up to mischief.

They will wait until Yeti, the biggest of the highland cows, has her head down eating. In that moment when she isn't paying attention Stinky or Flower will butt her on the head then they both run like crazy to hide behind their mommy.

They really are little stinkers!

Of lettuces and onions and other promises


Well so far we have lettuce and spinach up in the garden under a floating row cover. The sun room is full of flats with tiny onion, leek, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, tomato, and pepper plants. It's really crowded in there!


Brian and I have been working feverishly to get the greenhouse finished. As soon as it's up and sealed we can move most of the seedlings in there.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ups, and downs and lambs on the ground


Well this is the first day in two weeks I've felt like making the trip down the stairs to get to the computer. I've been down with pneumonia. With me sick and Brian still in a cast it's been complicated around here to get chores done. We had to call in my son and my niece to tag team the animal care.

It's frustrating for Brian and I as neither one of us has been able to go out side. Brian has cheated a little like the other morning when we only counted 10 sheep in the pasture even after using the binoculars to scan the field from our picture window.

Brian drove up to my daughters and hobbled out across the yard to check the little sheep shelter. Once again Zarah is the first ewe to drop her lambs.

Here they are! Brian says they look like "skunks" I think they look like they have white crash helmets on.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

UP UP AND AWAY!!


That's what happened to our barn today. Straight line winds in excess of 50 mph came through and destroyed our barn. Brian saw it from the kitchen window. He said it looked like the wind lifted off the the roof and rafters bounced them twice and dropped them - crunch!
Poor Brian, he thought I was up in the barn feeding the momma Dexters and their babies. Luckily I wasn't. I was in the hoop house with the hens wondering when the hoop house was going to take flight... so far it hasn't. The hens are safe and sound.
My son Anders came over and helped me fix the fence where the barn fell on it and we let the mommas and babies out with the other cows. No point in keeping them in a barn with no roof and who knows when it will collapse more. It's still howling like banshees outside my window.
At least the farm insurance will cover it. That's a good thing. But rebuilding will have to wait until Brian is back on his feet and that's almost 2 months away.
Still no one was hurt. The rest we can mend in time.

Friday, February 6, 2009

I can smell it!!



This morning I got up at 4 am to get some computer work done for the Red Wattle Association. Around about seven, I looked at the thermometer- 27 degrees, that's good I thought. It's almost a heatwave! I stuffed myself into my coveralls, gloves, hat and coat and off I went to tend the animals.

The sun was just a suggestion on the horizon as I walked up the drive. A light breeze with a touch of warmth began to blow out of the south and that's when it happened. I could smell it- SPRING! That light smell of green that the south wind carries letting you know that spring is coming north, slowly maybe, but it's on its way. I can hardly wait.

Don't get me wrong I like snow... and we need snow to help buffer the cold winter weather, but now I am wishing for spring. Spring with baby lambs, and daffodils and baby chicks and seedlings sprouting and green grass. :) I want to see Spring and touch it.

I know it's coming.... I can smell it.

Monday, February 2, 2009

It's a girl!


Finally, Brandy had her calf this morning. It's a nice long legged black heifer. When I got to the barn this morning, Brandy had her all dried off and she was up getting a drink of warm milk. No she needs a name: KMGF Grass Kissed ???

I can't think of anything girly to go with Ground Hog Day. Anybody have a good idea?

I'll post a pic as soon as I get one taken. :)

This is the last Dexter calf for this year. So we now have 3 heifers and 1 bull calf. The calves will stay with their mommies until they are 6 months old. Then they will be weaned.

We won't be keeping any of these calves, because we are keeping their daddy, Will, our herd bull. We'll be looking to either trade the them for unrelated heifers or selling them so we can buy unrelated heifers.

On being a pig's midwife


It was a beautiful sunny day- birds singing, snow melting and Gertrude one of our Red Wattle hogs didn't come out of her house for breakfast. When a pig won't eat something's up! So I turned the heat lamp on in the baby bumper space and went on with my chores.
When I checked her at noon- no babies. I checked Gerty again at 2- no babies.
My son, Anders, came over to help with the chores around 3:30 and Brian's daughter, Kate, and her boyfriend's family showed up about the time we were going out to feed the hogs.
As we came up to the hog fence I glanced into Gerty's house. OH WOW! We could just see 2 little golden rigling piglets.
I sent Kate for some rags and the camera. I got over the fence and crawled in with Gerty. Now I never would have done this with any other pig I've ever owned, but the RW's are sort of different. I talked quietly to Gerty and she gruffled back at me. I sat down by her and checked out the 2 piglets. They were fine, big, copper red and hungry.
While Kate was gone to the house, Gerty had 2 more piglets. Then over the course of about 2 hours she had 5 more piglets. As each one was born, I cleared it's nose and mouth, dried it a bit and tucked it in among its siblings at a teat.
When she was all done, there were 9 squealing, squirming, hungry piglets nursing away. Gerty just grumbled happily to the piglets and turned more up on her side so they could get to the other row of teats.
Gerty was quiet and calm through the whole ordeal. She didn't even notice when I took pictures and video!
I closed up the door when I left to keep the drafts out. I couldn't wait to show Brian the pics! He's laid up and it's really bothering him that he can't be out here for his hogs first litters.
This morning, when I went out to feed, Gerty was waiting by the trough and the babies had discovered the comforting warmth of the heatlamp.
All is well.

more pics at: http://s541.photobucket.com/albums/gg369/KissMyGrassFarm/RED%20WATTLE%20PIGLETS/

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Farming ain't for sissies

It would be wonderful if farming was all sunshine and baby animals frisking in the field, but it's not. Reality checks come in the form of 13 inches of snow that require you to stay up all night sweeping snow off the high tunnel where the hens live so the plastic doesn't collapse and frozen faucets on subzero mornings when the water tank is dry and all the animals are milling around waiting for you, and babies with life threatening scours.
And yesterday it came in the form of a still born lamb. Yoshi, my niece's retired 4-H ewe, had her lamb some time between when I checked on everybody in the morning and 2 o'clock when I went out to load up the horse we sold. It looked like she hadn't even tried to clean it off or nurse it at all. In fact, I stumbled over it in the snow. It was white and I didn't see it because I really wasn't expecting it. Yoshi, was no where near it. Odd.
I couldn't stop just then and do anything so I loaded the horse and got them on their way. Then I spent some time trying to figure out what happened. I found the placenta about 25 feet from the lamb and Yoshi another 25 feet from it. We won't ever know for sure what happened. Next year we will be sure to put Yoshi in a "jug" when she is getting close to term so she will be more likely to bond with her lamb and so we can keep a closer eye on her. We never thought of doing it this year because the Shetlands are so hardy they actually refuse to bring their babies in no matter what the weather is. We've never lost a Shetland lamb even in the worst weather.
If you've never tried to bury anything in frozen ground- don't. Pick axe and shovel. Tears and cuss words. I got the baby and the placenta buried so they wouldn't attract coyotes to the flock. Then went on to care for the other animals.
As with all things in life. Live, learn, keep going, do better next time. Still it is sad.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Brian is down until spring

Today, Brian had his foot surgery. The doctor went in and released his plantar fascia in his foot. It's supposed to make the severe pain Brian was experiencing go away. Of course we won't know for sure for six weeks.
In the mean time, Brian is laid up. He has crutches and wheelchair. He isn't to let that foot bear weight at all for 4-6 weeks. He's sort of bored, sort of grumpy and very restless. It's driving him crazy that he can't go out and work around the animals, can't get busy on all the projects we hope to have done before spring. So now when I go out to do the chores I carry my cell phone. We talk on the phone and I send him pics.
Next week when he feels a little better he's going to start back on his Red Wattle Hog history research and work some more on the overall layout of the new intensive pasture system for the hogs and catch up on the stack of books he has laying by the bed. They're all farm books, from tree pruning, to intensive grazing, hog, and cattle, bee and sheep books, tree farming, seed starting and seed saving. Maybe I can get him to do a couple of book reviews on here.
It's going to be hard for him to be good. He's never had surgery and he's never been this confined.
Wish us luck!!