Transparency… We Mean It!

Recently, someone who follows our Facebook page commented on a picture we posted of our new pigs. In the picture (below), she noticed that the pigs were in a small enclosure of some sort, and said “Just curious but why are they in a small pen?”. She was implying that, in her perception, the way these pigs were being housed might not be compatible with our professed values, and requested an explanation. To some, this might have been a little forward, or somehow out of place. And to some ranchers it may have ruffled some feathers in a “none of your business” sort of way. But this friend of ours knew that she could safely ask that of us without fear of negative blowback, thanks to another of our professed values: transparency. In fact, transparency is one of the cornerstone concepts of our farm, and it is completely foreign to … Continue reading

Sheep, And Their Role On Our Farm

I was always dead set against having sheep. I didn’t like the idea of them, I don’t eat lamb meat, and I don’t naturally have a “heart” for sheep like I do for cows. That being said, we have recently welcomed 10 St. Croix sheep onto our farm. Why the change of heart, you ask? Simple – economics. At a grazing conference I attended while still stationed in MS, the grass-fed guru there (Jim Gerrish, of American Grazinglands Services) included some statistics on the amount of protein one can raise on a per-acre basis, comparing beef-only, lamb-only, and combination herds. The dollar amounts might differ based on location, but the point remains the same: Cow-calf operation = $552/acre Ewe-lamb operation = $1399/acre Combination herd = $1806/acre Let’s just say that I perked up at those numbers! I love cows, but I love staying in business and raising my children on the … Continue reading

Get Your Grass-Fed Beef Here!

With all the excitement and drama surrounding Cebu, I almost forgot to update everyone about the most exciting development on our farmstead… we now have cows! That’s right, we’re real farmers!! We had settled on a breed some time ago, deciding that we would raise Red Poll cattle. They are a moderate-framed, easy calving, heritage breed, all of which means that they should perform admirably on our farm. They are listed as “threatened” by The Livestock Conservancy, an organization that we reference often to keep heritage breeds at the forefront of all our operations. On top of all that, they are beautiful animals and generally thrive on grass-based farms like ours. The one problem with choosing heritage breeds is locating viable options for seed stock, which I guess makes sense. In my searching I came into contact with a Red Poll guru named Dan, a 3rd generation breeder who has … Continue reading

Flight Of The Cebu

As I mentioned last post, we were pleased to welcome two gentle giants to our farm in the form of Sable and Cebu. We’d read before their arrival that Great Pyrenees dogs were smart, willful, and noisy; but sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know until you’ve lived it! Sable is everything we would want in a LGD: pretty, chill, sweet, obedient-ish, and quiet unless there is something approaching her territory. Cebu on the other hand is, umm, well, at least he’s handsome! His tenure with us started off with a bang (actually, sparks). I had crafted him a fine looking enclosure out of temporary step-in posts and electrified twine. I was ahead of the game, I thought, in my attempt to train him to the electric fence that would ultimately contain both him and our animals out on the pastures. Unfortunately, his thick coat prevented the fence from … Continue reading

Livestock Guardian Dogs

I have mixed emotions as I write this post. I’m pleased and super excited about our latest bit of news! But my heart is heavy as well, anticipating what is to come. Let me explain… We are now the proud owners of two, very large, (hopefully) very useful, livestock guardian dogs (LGDs). They are a breed called Great Pyrenees, which has been bred over the years to protect livestock of all kinds from predation without human assistance. They are part of our insurance policy, ensuring all the animals that we spend our good money on and sink our time into will arrive at market weight without early termination due to coyotes, neighbor dogs, foxes, raccoons, skunks, weasels, ferrets, hawks, snakes, mink, bears, mountain lions… well, you get the picture! Using LGDs fits perfectly into our mentality for the farmstead, as opposed to trapping, shooting, poisoning, etc. We brought these two dogs … Continue reading

Self-Employment Challenges

One of the challenges that we knew we would face in this transition was figuring out how to work from home. Despite knowing (and having a loose plan for) that, I was surprised at how difficult this concept was to deal with. Lots of people have tackled this issue, including some of our close friends, but it is definitely an on-going learning experience for us. One of the many wonderful things about this property’s infrastructure was the existence of a finished room off the garage. The previous owner had set it up as a man/hunting room, complete with deer heads hanging on the walls, camouflage curtains, and a gun safe in the corner. Right away, we began planning to turn this room into my farm office. Setting things up this way would allow me to “go to work” away from the kids, while still being close enough to help with … Continue reading

Farm Planning In Person

Now that we are physically on the property, farm planning takes on a whole different level. I’m finding that some things are clearer, while others have a lot more gray than before we arrived. For this post, I’ll just try to give a sense of what we’re thinking about and planning for, now that the land is laid out before us. As I discussed in this post, the very first thing we did when we got here was replace the weeds with grass, and get the pasture on its way to recovery. This was priority number one for several reasons. For one, it’s kind of hard to raise pasture-based animals without the pasture! In addition, the cool season grasses we planted (fescue, orchard grass, blue grass) needed to be in the ground no later than mid-September in order for them to germinate, develop a strong root structure, go dormant for … Continue reading

My First BIG Mistake

We all know that mistakes are a part of life, and that sooner or later everyone “goes big” on a mistake. Nowhere has this proven more true than in this farm life that we’ve chosen for ourselves. I’ve been making at least one decent mistake a day since we moved in, but the subject of this post was by far my biggest mistake so far. Not my last, mind you, but my biggest. It also provided some bigger teaching points, which is one of the reasons I want to share it here. A man named Fred (name changed to protect the innocent) had baled hay off the land that we took out of CREP. He had been over to the house several times with his trailer, picking up his share of the bales, when I mentioned to him that I didn’t have a way to move/stack my portion of the … Continue reading

Land Preparation

When we showed up on the farm in August, it looked a lot different than when I had come up to check things out initially in early April. It was greener, flowers were blooming, and everything felt more alive in the dog days of summer. The land was also very overgrown, since the sellers had moved out and the place had sat vacant over a month. So I spent a lot of time mowing (with the deck set super high) and bush-hogging, but what really commanded my attention was the 20 acres behind the house that had 10′ tall weeds growing! By no fault of the seller’s, we went under contract for this property just as a neighboring farmer had started preparing the land for corn. He had tilled, picked rocks, and applied fertilizer in the form of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Then we signed the papers and shouted “STOP”, … Continue reading

Coming Up For Air

GAAAAAASSSSSSPPPPP!!!    Yup, that’s about what it feels like!! We are finally at a point that we feel like we are able to tread water and resume some of our normal routines, blogging included. There is so much to update, so I’ll try my best to keep things consolidated and to the point.    Our move was mostly uneventful, with some drama in Ohio. Between the moving van hitting a building and the light pole in front of the house, to the moving company thinking that 4 guys and a hand-truck were enough to handle unloading my 1100+ pound gun safe, then dropping it on it’s back, then abdicating responsibility for the damages because I jumped in to help… let’s just say I’ve had enough of them for a while. Our house is a disaster area, but is getting better every day as boxes continue to come out empty. Heather … Continue reading