Monday, June 8, 2015

Peas and pork.

We are getting off to an amazing start this Spring. We finally have to geese sitting on ests and hope to see goslings soon. Our pigs continue to grow at an amazing rate. We are making arrangements to purchase a woodstove and cut down some of our older trees for firewood. Things are going really well for us but the garden has been the real showstopper this Spring.
 We have head enough moisture as well as enough heat and sun to really get the plants off to a running start. We planted a bunch of potatoes back in april and they seem just about ready to flower already. We have had to hill them twice. The great asparagus glut has come and just about gone.The newest thing to come online has been strawberries. There really is nothing like a strawberry straight from the garden and still a little warm from the summer sun.
   After that it looks like peas will be coming in and we can't wait. Peas are favorite for us. I grew up in a time of tight budgets and limited access to fresh produce. When I was younger I liked peas but I had only had canned or boiled peas. The sort of peas that were ready for war in Vietnam, olive drab and reliable if not exactly enthralling. It wasn't until I had frozen peas that I really fell in love with them. They were so sweet and had a bit of pop when you chewed them. They also had a flavor that spoke of Spring time and lush and growing plants. Then I had garden fresh peas and it happened again. I fell deeper in love with the humble pea. What frozen peas had garden fresh peas had even more of. Jess and I usually "compete" for the first few spoonfuls of peas and I look forward to it every year. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


This year is off to a great start. We have been able to get a lot of things going this Spring already. We have planted most of the garden already. We have already been able to have some modest harvests from our polytunnel greenhouse and our perennials in the garden.
    Another of this year pleasures is working with some friends that have recently moved to the area and are on a similar path as us. Our new friends moved to the area last Fall and it has been great getting to know them. They are younger and have an almost unlimited amount of energy for homesteading projects and seem to really shine where animal husbandry is concerned. This has been a great help to me this Spring because while I may be one of the least competitive people out there I am still easily motivated to keep up with others most days. And our new friends have gone in big! They have already started bees,goats,geese and rabbits and recently pigs. They have already planted a garden an orchard as well and are doing quite well at all of them!
      In order to keep up with the Joneses as it were we have a larger garden this year with a small 1/25th of an acre corn field set aside for the growing of heirloom dent corn . We have increased our plantings of potatoes this year. We also have planted four new elderflower bushes and five new gooseberry bushes. Lastly we fenced off a half acre of shaded pasture on the North of the property and converted part of our bunker in order to keep pigs.
     I am in love with the pigs already. It may seem odd to say that I am in love with an animal that I intend on eating but I don't have another word for it. I feel a real sense of duty to these animals. It is my duty to watch over thee animals and see to it that they are free from want and suffering as much as possible. To see that they have the best if environment, food and water that I can provide. It is my obligation to them to do this. I am asking that they give their lives at the end of our time together and it is the least I can do. But it is part of a bargain we make with animals. Those that we expect much of are cared for well and those that can do little for us are mostly ignored by us and left to the natural state of wilderness. I look forward to all the wonderful food our pigs will provide and the sense of balance that eating that food will bring.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Project Bacon Pt.1

Ever since we moved to our home we have been on  a steady trend of finding more ways to use our land as pasture,garden, or orchard. This has been in no small part due to my hatred of mowing, but also as part of a move to produce more and different kinds of food on our farm. We have had a lovely half acre of land on the NE corner of our property that we have really not done much with ever since we moved in. It is far to distant from the house to be used as a garden or yard and it is partially shaded by mature maples most of the day so it wouldn't be ideal for orchard.  We have instead just mowed it once or twice a year and otherwise it has been under utilized.
   Well we aim to change all of that. We have decided to raise pigs on it for a season. We have never raised pigs before and are very excited to begin. We look forward both to having more and different types of animals on the farm as well as the quality meat they will one day provide us. Our plan is to purchase some feeder pigs and raise them over the Summer and butcher them this Fall. Jess has found a supplier and I have been hard at work erecting fencing and getting the old "bunker" ready to function as pig housing. Everything is just about complete on that score. The fence has been erected and the door and window installed on the bunker. The last thing I need to do is to bury a few sections of the fencing and add a strand of electric wire around the fence to keep the pigs from digging underneath. 

I don't have any pictures of the completed pen yet so please except this picture of home cured bacon I made last summer instead. 

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.