Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Musings on disaster.

Yesterday our heat lamp fell into our brooder and burned through the bedding, the plastic and the rolling dolly I had the brooder set on. We were lucky in that we discovered it before it had the chance to ignite and burn down the garage. We were lucky but this Springs chicks were not.

Life on a small farm is not without its successes and triumphs but that is not what this post is about. This post is about failures and setbacks. No matter what you do on a small farm you will have failures and setbacks. I have had quite a few. From hail storm ravaged gardens to rabbits that wouldn’t mother their young. Some are my fault either through ignorance or mistake and some are simple acts of random chance. 

As small farmers we invest so much of ourselves into our farms. From hours carefully tending gardens and herding flocks to time spent constructing pens and buildings we shape and mold our farms to be a reflection of our desires and dreams. For some this may be an intricately integrated vegetable garden with carefully plotted and planted varieties, plants that were selected with promise and tended with love and affection. For some of us it is a flock of busy little hens whose antics and names came to be dear to us over the hours we spend with them caring for their needs.  And when we invest so much of our hearts, minds and dreams in our farms it can be an especially difficult blow when disaster strikes. Failures on the homestead can crush your heart. Any time an animal dies I feel it is my fault, that I messed up in some way in care or prevention of harm. That can be an especially heavy burden indeed.

 There may be some luck few out there that will avoid all calamities but for the rest of us the question isn’t if but when and where disaster will strike. We have had many failures and setback and if you are a homesteader or small farmer than my guess is so have you.  So what can we do about it. First from the outset decide that you will have setbacks and that they may sadden you but that they will not stop you. Stiffen your resolve before it is even tested so that when the blow comes you have something to lean on. Second see destruction as a teacher. If you are observant you will find that every failure has a lesson in it. Whether that lesson is specific such as a hole in your fence or more general such as you can’t control everything is up to you. But I urge you to find these lessons as they will make you and your farmstead better with every realization. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Just a quick update to keep up the habit

   So last weekend we were able to actually start the process of getting the garden ready for the season. We pulled some weeds, turned some soil and removed last year's asparagus fronds. Then come Sunday we got nine inches of snow and I was immediately brought back down to earth. Spring in Minnesota is a time for flexible living. So the snow is starting to melt again and we wait.
   In other news I updated the blog a bit and added a link to my Pinterest boards which I think have some good ideas. I don't know when I might have a chance to put any of them into action but perhaps they might inspire some of you


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Catch up picture post.

Here are some of the things we have done since I last wrote in this blog. From most recent to least recent they are...

We went to Kona this spring and got a chance to see coffee grow. 
 Jess is still amazing. 
 We continue to have our fall festivals every year and raise money for the food shelf. 
 I went hunting for elk in Wyoming
 The views were amazing
 It was a great trip. 
 I backed out of this spot 15 seconds before that branch came down right where I was. 
 Our rhubarb is kind of overwhelming now
  I am getting a little better at catching smelt. 
We are raising geese as our only waterfowl now. 
 Katz's deli 
 Jess looking suitably aloof for springtime in NY. 
 We took a trip to New Yor.
 We cured and smoked some bacon on the farm. 
 The last few winters have been way too cold. 
 I tried to tan a deer hide. with mixed results.
 I got to meet Hank Shaw in person. 
 We have harvested and eaten shaggy manes.
 We added a poly tunnel for season extension. I still haven't got it quite figured out yet but I am getting better with controlling it. 
 We continue to harvest our hops and brew beer with them. 
 We were adopted by a barn cat named Florence. 
 We fenced off a large part of the yard as a field for annimals
 We attended the seed savers annual convention
 We attended a number of great lectures there. 
 I spent a week in the BWCAW 
 I have gotten better at finding morels in the spring time. 
 We made nettel and pumpkin ravioli. 

We hatched our own baby chicks

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Spring is sprung

Well Spring is the season of new growth. I don't exactly know what the new restart of the blog might entail but I hope to get the blog started back up again.
     We have some big plans for the farm this year. We plan to try raising pigs for the first time which is very exciting. So far I have cleaned out half the bunker and filled it with straw. I have also arranged a heat lamp and made a feed trough for our future piglets.
     We also are planning to raise a significant amount of dent corn this year as part of a project to produce a special corn grits.
    We also kept six of the geese over the winter and while they don't appear to have much interest in laying eggs just yet we have hopes of raising our own goslings this year.

So lots of plans. Hopefully more to come soon!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Polar Vortex

It seems that this Winter we are getting a taste of future things to possibly come. I am no climate scientist but this irregular cold weather we have been having this year meets my understanding of Climate Change. It has been exceptionally cold exceptional early in Minnesota this year and it has lasted longer already than is usual. I suspect that there is more of this in the future. So I did the only sane thing I could think of and ordered peach trees for this Spring. Now Minnesota peach trees may not be the first thing that Springs to mind when I say the word polar vortex but they are connected.
   Firstly since the climate is changing it can go in either direction so for me on zone 4 that means planting both zone 3 hardy and zone 5 hardy plants. And secondly I have been thinking a lot of old Sam McGee and his home in Peach Tree Tennessee this Winter. Plus I just really love the idea of my own peach trees.
   I also ordered a pair of Paw Paw trees. As a native fruit that are hardy quite far north with a great taste I am excited about these. It will likely be at least 3 years before I get to taste a Paw Paw but I am playing a long game here on the farm.

Keep Warm
Frustrated Farmer Rick

Monday, December 30, 2013

New car

As part of our long term plan to reduce our reliance on ancient carbon based fuels we have decided our new car needs to be at least a hybrid or fully electric car. After having driven a number of vehicles and doing the math it lools like the best car for us will be the Chevy Volt. The fully electric car is superior for short trips as we can run only on electricity for the first thirty or so miles. For longer distances however the hybrids have slightly better mileage.
I  am fully aware that when we charge an electric vehicle we are most likely still using ancient carbon but future plans for us are to begin producing electricity which would completely change the equation. So for now we have decided on the Chevy Volt.

Friday, December 27, 2013

So much to tell.

It has been a heck of a long time since I started this blog. I have stopped and started it over the years and it seems I have the itch to start it up again. A lot has changed since I stopped writing a few years back so I will just go over the highlights.

 We are continuing our self sufficient and low impact lifestyle and increasing the possibilities on the farm. We have added more perennial plants in the form of some mulberry bushes and black currants. We have also made an investment in the future by the planting of two small white oaks that may provide acorns to some lucky soul in the future. We have also established a Jerusalem artichoke hedge at the south east end of the yard to help shade and act as a windbreak. Last fall we put up a small 12 by 20 poly-tunnel and we had some greens all the way into Thanksgiving this year from it. We moved the chicken coop and yard adjacent to the garden in order to use the garden as an expanded run during early and late season and increase fertility in the garden. We also fenced in a a large portion of the center of the yard this summer and have turned it over to the farm for livestock. This last season we raised a geese in the yard and it was a great success. We also started raising chickens in a chicken tractor in the yard with some moderate success. We also successfully hatched chickens last spring with our incubator. Lastly we are switching out rabbit breads due to the  difficulties we had with our rabbits to see if it was us or them.
   Ongoing projects include a smallish water retention pond located near the pole barn, a planned increase in goose numbers this year and full use of our poly-tunnel for planting in the Spring.

And last but not least we need to announce the addition of a our new farm dog Lazlo.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The reason I have been away

        Well it was my intention to post every day this month and apart from a few slips I think I have been pretty good. But you will have noticed that I have not posted in some time. That was due to our annual deer hunting trip to north western Minnesota.
        I alway had an interest in hunting ever since I was a child. I remember my grandfather hunting a few times and I remember his guns and hunting clothes in the front hall. Hunting always seemed like some great and mysterious secret that men knew, or at least the kind of men my grandfather was and that was fine enough an example for me. I wanted to hunt. Sadly my father was not a big part of my life at that age and my step father had no interest in hunting at all. I satisfied my self with learning woodland skills like tracking animals, making camp fires and learning to identify and forage for plants. I also developed a keen interest in fishing as well, also to be more like my grandfather. But hunting had to wait.
       Many years after high school and my time in the Navy I spent some time in the Army National Guard as a medic and it was there that I met my hunting mentor and all around great friend James. You see he was also ex-navy and also had a love for fishing and food. I also learned that he had some experience hunting. I don't exactly remember how I first talked him into letting me go duck hunting with him but for me it was a door opening and I rushed through it. In the many years since we have hunted everything from squirrels to deer. I have introduced other friends of mine to the joys and challenges of hunting as well.  It is through him that I have met many great and wonderful people and had many fantastic days in the field. He helped me learn to butcher what I managed to harvest and even been a fine example of just what a person can do with wild game. You really should read his blog if you have not yet. Thanks James!

Scroll down for dead deer picture.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

 Great video I found over on Cricket Bread. It is not really about crop mobs but rather a reading of the essay New Blood in the Old Body.

Crop Mob: An Introduction from Cricket Bread on Vimeo.

Lastly since I will be away deer hunting this weekend I want to present another version of somone preserving the past as a way to save the future.

There's No Place Like Here: Liberty Tool from Etsy on Vimeo.