Category Archives: farming

Lots of Activity

I thought life was crazy before! I have changed my mind. Currently, we have added in the woes of fence construction, new seeding, grazing management, frost seeding, and relocating temporary fences.

Let’s start with the temporary fence. A great deal of our fence areas are set in with step in posts and braided wire. I hasn’t been a problem until now. The issues that have come up now are long-haired animals (see photo below) just walking through the fence. Hair seems to NOT conduct the electricity within the energized wire. Needless to say, about two to six times a day…I am putting cattle back inside the fence or getting a phone call while I run errands because the cows are out.

Two Irish Dexter calves on the wrong side of the fence.
Two Irish Dexter calves on the wrong side of the fence.

It really doesn’t make much sense. As you can see, the grass is very low to the ground in that area. Inside the area fenced in, some of the grass under the laid over hay is several inches long. In this case, the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence!

This shows the grasses inside the fence
This shows the grasses inside the fence

Now let’s talk about this photo a little more. This is part of our pre-spring grazing management. We have an area fenced in that needed some “work”. The area gets very steep and doesn’t allow for any type of tractor work. So we are using the cattle to do the work for us. As you can see in the photo, the old forage growth within the paddock has provided a sort of blanket for the new grasses underneath to sprout and grow quicker than the worked up field areas that we grazed last fall.

This is just part of the area that we are "working" with the cattle
This is just part of the area that we are “working” with the cattle

The standing stalks of weeds will get eaten, trampled and the ground develops as the cattle hooves dig into the ground. We have already seen improvements…in 2 days! Take a look!

This is at the end of day one in this paddock. Note how the stalks are broken or eaten. Also note the addition of cow pies for fertilization.
This is at the end of day one in this paddock. Note how the stalks are broken or eaten. Also note the addition of cow pies for fertilization.

I will be posting follow-up photos with before, during and after shots. We are trying this as part of an experiment for land reclaiming. They are eating the briars and the weeds! Proof in these next two photos.

Here is Tommy eating Golden Rod stalks that grew last year (2012)
Here is Tommy eating Golden Rod stalks that grew last year (2012)
Cow clipped briars!
Cow clipped briars!
Here is Tommy, sniffing to see if he wants to eat the briar.
Here is Tommy, sniffing to see if he wants to eat the briar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next stage for us will be fencing in the 90 acres we will be using for rotational grazing this year and for many years to come. It’s a big job with over 14,500 linear feet of fencing, posts, wires, etc to have put up! Once it’s all completed we will have enough area to grazing 45 animals. To someone like me with an obsession with cattle…it means I can buy more cattle! (Reminder: I like to buy cattle like most women like to buy shoes!)

We also have 30 acres to get seeded for another grazing area too. Rich has been researching, reading and learning what types of grasses and legumes will be best suited for both the soil and the cattle. He thinks he has finally figured out which blend (a custom mix with lots of plant diversity) he wants to go with. In the meantime, we will be frost seeding clover on last years pastures to start building nitrogen in the ground. Did you know that clovers are nature’s way of providing nitrogen? I didn’t…but it’s very cool! No more synthetic fertilizer for nitrogen!!!

Saturday, we will be headed to a grazing seminar that will help us learn how to become more adapt at managing our grazing plan. I am super excited to go and I will make sure I take LOTS of pictures!

For now…it’s back to chasing cattle, taking more photos and reading more books! Thanks for stopping in to read about my adventures and sharing our little piece of Heaven!

 

 

Stigmas

After viewing a recommended video about the Ward Brothers from a small town called Munnsville, NY not far from us, I have decided I need to write something about the stigmas that are associated with country and farming people.

The name of the documentary is called “Brother’s Keeper”. Brother’s Keeper is a 1992 documentary directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. The film is about an alleged 1990 murder in the village of Munnsville, New York.

The film contrasts two groups of society; people from rural areas and those from larger cities.

This whole documentary has sparked a whole train of thought and conversation about the perceptions people have from one group to another, one location over another, one way of life over another and how differently people are treated based on some of these differences.

I have almost always lived in the country, mainly in dairy-farming areas. I have seen the sense of community shown within this documentary. It’s amazing how different small towns are. People stay around their own homes more often than not but, when it comes to someone within their community needing help, it’s all hands on deck. People whom you have rarely seen come to assist if someone loses a home to something like fire. People pull together as a community over tragedies like accidental death.

Seeing as how I lived for a short couple of years within a small college community, I will express what I have seen as a major difference. Neighbors have no idea who lives next door to them. They pass each other on the street without so much as a passing glance and if you do make eye contact and smile in someone’s direction people get suspicious of you. This is coming from a female. It takes a very long time to establish relationships, if ever, with the people who live within the same block. People are distrusting and suspect every movement, look or word.

In my more recent years, I have moved back into a rural, dairy-farming community. It isn’t as closely knit for me, being an immigrant to the area, but I still know my neighbors and most of the residents within the town by first name. Communities are not the same as they once were, but for the most part it’s still a close-knit area. Since we have established the farm again, we have been seeing more and more people come from the city areas to visit. They come to see the animals, maybe do some fishing in our pond or to just come out and see the scenery.

One group of men, who are contractors from New York City and Long Island, came this last fall. During their visits, some of the stigmas they had placed on country people came into conversation. One in particular came out and told us that he didn’t think country people even had access to the internet and didn’t know how to use computers. He also felt that we weren’t up to date on current events because we didn’t have cable television. As we sat discussing when we joined the technology age, he was shocked that we had computers before he did and that we had joined the smart phone age when he had yet to do so himself.

Furthering the conversation, one of the other men came out and expressed his shock over the intelligence expressed in our house. Not only were we up to date with current events but we had massive knowledge on things he never considered. Some of those examples were crops, yields, soil improvements, and typical farm things that most farm families know and put into working knowledge. Other things that baffled his mind was that I, a female, know how to work on four wheelers, tractors and automobiles.

I admit, I may be a little rare in my tomboy ways but I know lots of women who do these types of things out of necessity. We, and I am saying this loosely as a country girl, have to know how to do many things. Many of us shoot guns, go hunting and fishing, work on difference mechanical things and we also know the basics of construction, plumbing and electrical “stuff”.

The question is…Am I treated differently? You bet I am. I can’t tell you how many times I have been told to act for like a lady, that I should “dress up” more often and that I should find a nice desk job all because I was born with a vagina and breasts. Do I do things differently? You bet I do. I am an independent women who can raise my own food, hunt or fish for it if need be and can fix my own vehicle. Am I intelligent? I don’t know but I can tell you this…I can sit in meetings, talk with college professors about things that 99% of the population has no clue about when it comes to renewable energy through agricultural biomass. I can research, learn and take class after class to create what I call a more education person. Do I do dumb things? All the time. I am not perfect, I don’t want to be perfect.

Do I think that people who reside in the city areas are more intelligent? On some things, I have no doubt. But, I also don’t live within a closed mind of stigmas and discrimination either. I take each person as they are. I learn about them from them, not through what society says they should be.

So what’s the moral to this blog post?
As the old saying goes, “Never judge a book by its cover”. Just because someone lives rural doesn’t mean they are any different from you are. Don’t discriminate against the individual.  Country people are no different. City people are no different. People are people, no matter where they were born, what color, what sex, what religion they follow, or how old they are.

I was raised to treat people all the same. After all, don’t we all get up and put our pants on the same? We all have the same chances in life, IF we work hard enough to make our dreams come true. Don’t make someone feel inferior because of a stigma handed down through society.

Important definitions:
Discrimination is the prejudicial or distinguishing treatment of an individual based on their actual or perceived membership in a certain group or category, such as their racegendersexual orientationgender identitynational originreligionagedisabilityskin colorethnicity, or other characteristics.

Racism is usually defined as views, practices and actions reflecting the belief that humanity is divided into distinct biological groups called races and that members of a certain race share certain attributes which make that group as a whole less desirable, more desirable, inferior or superior.

Extreme Weather Calf Care

All of us across the country have seen some extreme weather this year. Farms with animals have to pay extra attention under extreme heat and cold, not to mention high winds and heavy rains.

Here in Upstate NY, we aren’t facing winter colds as low on the thermometer as some of the others across the country but we are still facing morning temperatures of negative 6 and some wind chill factors.

As any person would, extra care needs to be taken to ensure safety in such extreme cold. This is one of the reason we make sure that our animals have good shelter and a warm place to rest. Cold stress in cattle is very difficult to deal with and should be monitored for.

Cold stress in cattle is just like the stress of hypothermia in a human. Treatment is very much the same. It involves slowly warming the body to get body temperatures elevated without reheating too quickly. Cold stress slows heart rates down and often makes animals very latargic. To rewarm an animal here on our farm, it involves many trips from the house to the barn; blankets being warmed in the dryer for several minutes and then tucked inside a coat to be run to the barn; it involves warm water (often electrolytes to prevent dehydration); and hours before an animal is back on it’s feet again. As you can imagine it is a very daunting task.

Calves are the most easily effected by cold stress. Without fat stores or long haired winter coats, they aren’t equipped to deal with these freezing temperatures. Calves can be stressed in temperatures at 40 degrees if the wind is blowing and there is high humidity. This is one reason why calf care is crucial. By closely monitoring how a calf acts and/or reacts to environmental conditions, you can determine a method of prevention. Many times, something as simple as a calf coat is enough to 1)block air movement and prevent body warmth from escaping and 2)provide a layer of protection against air moisture.

Adding a calf coat for cold temperatures in an attempt to keep a calf warm.
Adding a calf coat for cold temperatures in an attempt to keep a calf warm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paying attention to bedding is also crucial. A calf will not retain body heat if it is laying on damp or wet bedding. We pay extra close attention to this detail year round but will add extra bedding with the use of additional straw to keep them warm. Wheat or Oat straw is important to have within our bedding mixtures because straw is actually hollow. Standard hay is finer and is natural a solid “stalk”. The hollow core of the straw will absorb body heat and help retain the heat. We double load bedding area with straw during colder months to ensure that the animal is nested down inside…much like the shape of a dog bed.

What happens if the bedding and a coat aren’t enough? Sometimes we use heat lamps. The heat lamps, just like the ones used for keeping baby chicks warm, create a warm area under the lamp. Most often, this step will assist a calf from getting cold stress.

Have we had animals with cold stress? Yes, we have. Last, we had a couple of calves group housed within the main area of our barn. We provided them with thick sawdust bedding and lots of straw in one area inside the barn. Unfortunately, overnight on a sub-zero night one of the calf decided to be a jerk and keep the other calf off the bedding. Calves do get territorial from time to time and this does happen. We did not anticipate it happening with two calves over a very large area…but it did. The calf rejected from the bedding then laid down on the concrete floor. Needless to say, as she slept her body temperature dropped and continued to do so until I made my way to the barn.

After seperating the calves into different areas and getting her off the concrete floor onto good bedding…I started treatment for hypothermia. Warming blankets every 20 minutes, dribbling warm electrolytes into her mouth because she had minimal body function and a visit from the vet to make sure I was doing the right thing. The vet administered a shot of Vitamin B and told me to keep slowly warming her the way I was. Proudly, I can say that over the course of 12 hours, her body temperature elevated back to normal and she was back on her feed drinking and eating normally again. Today, she is one of my favorite girls and will be having her first calf this coming spring.

Ruby is one of the friendliest dairy heifers you could ask for
Ruby is one of the friendliest dairy heifers you could ask for

What are we doing different this year? Well, we have a calf that is just days old now hanging out with me inside. With zero fat stores, a wet and slimy newborn coat and the temperatures continuing to drop…we were keeping close watch when he started to show signs of hypothermia with uncontollable shaking that didn’t stop. Not wanting to expose him to the other cattle yet…one option remained. He is a good boy. He lays on a blanket (with an absorbtion pad much like those used for puppy training). He comes into the living room a couple times a day to jump and run around so he stays flexible. When the weather gets warmer, we will start getting him used to cooler temperatures and slowly start working him back to the barn a little more each day until he is back in the barn full time.

Is this the right way? Maybe not…but with me being unable to do some of the normal barn activities, I feel this was the best choice for his chance of survival. Personally, I rather enjoy the little guy being around. I will miss him when he goes back to the barn.

I will miss all of his "help" with paperwork
I will miss all of his “help” with paperwork

Winter Blues

They say the life of a farmer slows down in winter. I beg to differ. Winter time is usually the time we catch up on reading, sit through forage classes and plan out for the coming year. This year isn’t much different for me other than I am reading more on Holistic Land Management and taking some additional business and financial planning classes online. The extra course work, which takes a couple hours per week per class, really isn’t that much but it still takes time.

I have some other classes that I am taking too. Ones on the food system in the US and another on human nutrition. Why am I taking these classes you ask? Looking at from my perspective, I feel as a farmer who works extensively with consumers about food production, it’s my job to be as informed as possible about how food impacts choices when it comes to how you eat. It’s also important for me to know and be able to express how food moves and travels because you never know someday we might be selling our goods all across the US. As for the business and financial planning classes, no matter how you want to look at farming or agriculture in general…it’s still a business where we need to make sure that we are planning and spending funds appropriately but also ensuring that we are making enough money to stay afloat too.

Farming doesn’t have the profitability of many other jobs but it is rewarding in other ways. That’s one reason why it’s important to look at management from a Holistic standpoint since those methods also take a look at lifestyle too.

On top of classes, I am still doing all of the same stuff…dealing with frozen water, cold stress in cattle, feeding hay bales, changing bedding, filling water jugs several times a day, gathering eggs, feeding chickens, caring for calves, keeping the fires going, cooking the old style home cooked meals and still trying to keep up with laundry, dishes and housework.

Life doesn’t slow down for much on the farm. Sometimes we are forced to take breaks from the daily routine due to illness (and believe me, I have to be SUPER ill to keep me away from the barn) but it isn’t often. Even if we aren’t doing the manual labor involved for the farm, there are still other things we do. Research, reading and formulating crop charts, rotational grazing map or looking through seed catalogs…there is always something that can be done.

I have been down and out for a couple of days with one of those illnesses that prevents me from standing too much…but I still didn’t miss the birth of the first calf of 2013. I even managed to capture a video!

I didn’t get to stay out there too long and I am thankful for a cow that is awesome about birthing. I missed the first steps and the first suckle, which happen to be some of my favorite moments on the farm. It’s rather depressing to miss such moments too but, sometimes we have to take care of our own health first or we won’t be any good for anything at all for a very long time, if ever again. So for now, I will deal with my winter blues the best way I know how…learning, researching and communicating via books and the internet. I have to say, I have had some awesome conversations over the phone too about our grazing plans, the success we have had and why I think it’s important for others to consider rotational grazing. Being down isn’t all bad…it just takes some adapting.

I will write more soon about extreme animal care and welfare. I want to give some details about how we cope with winter months when temperatures hover around ZERO with freezing cold wind chill factors, what we do to ensure animal safety during winter, and how grazing has also been incorporated during the winter months. I may have to write up a series of articles but, I think it’s important that people see just how much care and planning goes into animal care during extreme weather.

Hope you are all staying warm…and I will leave you with a photo to contemplate for the next blog! Have a blessed day!

Here is Abel...warm, relaxed and sound asleep. What's "off" about this photo?
Here is Abel…warm, relaxed and sound asleep. What’s “off” about this photo?

A Growing Christmas Tree

I have to say…it isn’t gifts or spending time around my crazy family this holiday season that has me all excited like a kid on Christmas morning!

IT’S MY GROWING FRESH CUT CHRISTMAS TREE!

I have looked all over online to see if this is something normal…with ZERO results.

We cut our tree down on December 1st. It’s one of the trees that Mr. Farmer and his two children planted about twenty years ago…or maybe the offspring from one of them anyway. On the first, we had a couple of visitors from the NYC area come up to pick out a couple of trees to take back. While we were assisting them, we figured…hey, might as well cut our own. Makes sense right?

Mr. Farmer did the hard work (sarcastic) and cut the tree down. We loaded in the back of the pickup and drove down of the hill. I trimmed it up within an hour or so and got it standing in our living room. It was a little too tall (aren’t they always?) so I trimmed the top spire down to fit my angel, strung the lights and gave it some cold water.

I have to admit…it sat here for almost two weeks with nothing but a couple strings of lights and some additional pine cones wired on. I check the water daily and when it calls for a drink, I have been adding a little warm water. I finally rolled around to getting some ornaments on it last Friday. Not many of them but just enough to make it look like a Christmas tree.

Everything has been going just fine, typical and normal until last night. I came out of the bedroom door (the tree is straight ahead and maybe six foot away) I noticed these white looking “bumps”. After turning on the lights, I thought I was seeing things. At first, I thought we had some type of bug growing all over on the branches. After getting the flashlight and my glasses….to my astonished surprise here’s what I see.

Not a bug afterall
Not a bug afterall

Can you believe that? The tree is LOADED with them. Nearly every branch looks like this:

Look at all those!
Look at all those!

In all my years, not on my tree or others I have seen, have grown pine cones once cut! If anyone has any idea on how I did this…PLEASE comment and let me know. I have done several internet searches to try to debunk this fluke of nature…with no results.

One awesome thing….I think I have the coolest Christmas tree EVER!

Exciting Times Around the Farm

Well, now that things have kind of fallen into a routine…it’s time to get back on track with updating.

We are excited to say that we are now collaborating with a store front located in Binghamton, NY called Old Barn Hollow. We have been sending our eggs to their newly opened store front for about a month now. It is so great to be able to share our eggs with some of the fine folks within the city that are purchasing local food goods! I am excited to see how they do and know in my heart that this is just the start of a great adventure!

Second, we send our fast growing meat chickens over to a USDA certified butcher shop that is now open locally too! Cascun Farms is now the only processor I know of within our area. When talking with them after our birds we processed, we discovered that our ideas on how to support, increase awareness and generate fair income for local small farms fall right into line with each other! Andrea is a joy to work with and we have been collaborating on developing some ground work for some future developments. Andrea has a ton on her plate right now with being a mom of three and operating not only a farm herself but also being involved with the poultry processing. Both her and her husband have been working very hard at setting up meetings and looking into new market avenues for small farms within the upstate New York regions.  As time goes on and more things come online…I will start sharing the progress.

As for us….we are now chugging away with 18 head of cattle (including a couple of dairy heifers that I am super excited about), around  60 chickens and 15 turkeys! It’s really hard to believe that just four short years ago there weren’t any farm animals here! They seems to be multiplying all over the place!

All of the turkeys that we grew since this summer are no spoken for as well! Twelve are headed to Cascun Farms for processing…with four to return and just two for us to keep! Unfortunately, that means no remaining for us for the rest of the year…but it just means I can get more birds in the spring!

We have sold and eaten some of our pasture raised Rose Veal now too! There is much conversation all over the place about what we do with these unwanted bull calves and why. We know have an amazing brochure that explains the basics in detail as well! Now I have been talking with a few local restaurants and a whole sale supply chain on developing some new markets as well. Several folks have requested some samples and I can’t wait to hear what they say about the product…I know that we have worked hard to do the right thing by these fellas and I know it shows through in flavor and texture!

So many things have been happening all at once that it has been extremely difficult to keep up with everything….but now that a couple of things have been changed around, I find myself with an extra few minutes everyday to be able to get back to doing what I love to do so much……Go figure! It’s talking about the farm and the animals!

Make sure you stop by and visit our facebook page too. We are posting conversations and sharing lots of photographs! You can see how well the animals did on rotational grazing this summer and even get to see some of the fantastic meals we eat! We will be running some specials for ordering very soon too so don’t forget to click that like button!

Haying Time

It’s hard to believe that we are continuously working on haying it seems. Some of the fields are still first cutting hay, while others are already seeing rebound growth of third cutting hay that looks extremely promising…that is, as long as we continue to get a little bit of rain here and there.

I know that our farm and the additional family farm we work with are very fortunate this year when compared to what some of the farms out in the corn belt and Texas are dealing with. The whole country seems to be facing one sort of drought or another. I know I have driven past areas that the corn is shriveled and pointed toward the heavens with it’s leaves curled up like hands in a silent prayer, begging for rain. Some of our grasses here are scorched and a limp pale green yellowish color. We have had a few sprinkles of rain…but we still aren’t facing the dried up ground that many others have.

I worry and say a lot of prayers for those in the areas affected by the fires that are cropping up every where. I worry and say prayers for all of those farmers that supply so many with the goods they produce. I scares me to think of how it could impact all of us in the long run if they don’t start getting some rain. Food shortages are the biggest thing that freaks me out. The northeast will never be able to supply the world demand for US grown crops and we seem to be the one’s least affected by the drought so far….scary thoughts!

Even with the good hay crops that we are getting here…we still won’t be able to come up with enough to support the diminishing supplies needed in the other regions of the US. Two consecutive years of extensive drought has many concerned, including all of the farmers I have talked to locally.

I know many people are getting prepared for the onslaught of hay demands for the south and are stuffing their barns full to the gills already. We are all trying to prepare to assist…but you can’t just create hay from weedy fields…bedding maybe, but not food that cows will actually want to eat. We can only be as prepared as the fields are…

We have actually been getting some really nice looking hay to put up. A few of the fields have actually shown record production too. The one field were worked in yesterday has beat it’s all time record of 40 round bales (size of bale is about 4-1/2 feet by 4 feet and weighs approximately 750 lbs) to an astonishing record of 51! Hopefully, that will mean that some of them will be prepared and ready to drop onto a truck if the need arises. Most of the fields this year have been this way, thank goodness!

Anyways, time for me to get my own chores done, that way I can head out here in a bit to see what needs to be done and what fields are going to be worked on today…with the temperatures hovering around 95 degrees with a heat index up over 100, who knows what and how much we can get accomplished today.

God Bless you all…and pray with me for more rain!

Farm Camp Grads

Well, yesterday was the last time those Texas girls came for farm camp…not to work but for photos with their favorite animals on the farm. I have to admit, I was delighted, shocked and surprised when the chose the calves over new chicks, chickens and the turkeys.

The whole farm camp experience has been both rewarding and fun for our farm. We got the opportunity to share part of our daily lives with two teenage girls who didn’t know, understand and were fearful of many things on the farm. Granted they were Mr. Farmer’s nieces but being one generation and part of the family removed from farm life doesn’t mean they had any idea what farming is/was like.

Having them come to learn about the animals, how to care for them and just spend time around the farm was an eye opening experience. It demonstrated to us just what type of seperation the younger generation sometimes have with the origin of 1)how people in the olden days used to survive, 2)their food and 3)the different methods of achieving the end result of milk, butter, cheese, meat, etc.

I am so very proud of them, even though they hated getting up early to be at the farm by 6 am. They learned to not be afraid of the chickens pecking them while gathering eggs. They learned that calves will not bite (too hard anyway) if allowed to suck on your fingers. They learned that just because a cow is bigger than you it doesn’t mean that you need to be scared all the time but that it is okay to have a healthy respect for the size of the animal. They learned that flip flops are really not good options for foot apparel on the farm, no matter what the farm manager does. They learned that farming can actually be fun and animals are really kind of funny with their antics. They also learned that sometimes normal chores like checking fields can be fun too…especially when you detour with the four wheeler into the woods to get stuck in the mud! They also learned that once you start adding up all that the land and the animals can provide for you, it’s actually a lot of work but very enjoyable too.

The whole thing has actually inspired me to dedicate sometime every summer to a few kids that would normally not have the opportunity to spend time on a farm to at least be able to spend an hour or two learning about what farmers really do. We, as a farm, have decided to use a funding raising method through the sale of t-shirts to raise money to cover for some of the items that would be supplied to the kids. Those t-shirt designs and logos will be given to all the kids that come to learn. They will also receive a portrait photo for them to keep too. For the younger kids, maybe a coloring book and some crayons. For the old kids, we still are thinking…so ideas are very welcome for that teenage group!

As we progress through with the shirts, I will generate a special post for here with color options. Adult shirts will retail for $15, kids shirts will retail for $10. Below are the farm camp version of the shirts, along with the farm logo and a couple of portrait shots as examples.

Newly graduated Farmer Autumn performing a calf whispering
New Grad Farmer Ashley out playing with the calves
Two very happy graduates of farm camp!

This is the new “I survived farm camp” logo. PLEASE do not use under any circumstance. No written permission is granted for the secondary use of this file. Thank you for your consideration.