Upcoming Farm School!

If you’ve made it this far on this blog, you deserve a pat on the back… it took real patience and perseverance to make that happen! The reality is that I don’t blog anymore, I simply don’t have the time to dedicate to it these days. Maybe I will again someday… But hey, while you’re here I wanted to take the opportunity to personally invite you to consider attending our upcoming Farm School on April 29-30. You are obviously dedicated to sustainable, pasture-based, humane livestock farming… exactly the kind of people we hope to draw to our phenomenal (if I don’t say so myself) event! Click here to be lifted from the world of “what once was” to the the world of “what could be”!

Old-Fashioned Barn Raising

The weather is getting cooler, the leaves are turning colors, and fall is officially here. And with it comes the realization that I am WAY behind in addressing the main issue we faced last winter: the lack of proper infrastructure to deal with cold, wind, and freezing precipitation. I spent entirely too much time and energy last year keeping my animals warm and dry, and in some cases failed in that most important of jobs, and it was the animals who ultimately suffered. At the time I promised myself “never again”, but with the warmer weather came a litany of additional tasks that served as a distraction and pushed our winter woes lower and lower on the list of priorities. But now, with another winter impending, those considerations have percolated back to the top of the list, but now there are only 60 days or so to get things taken care of! … Continue reading

I’m Back!

Back when I had time to read other farmer’s blogs, I distinctly remember a common theme appearing. After cranking out regular posts with great content, there was always a point at which they sort of dropped off the map. After a while, they would re-appear, apologizing for losing focus and telling some sob story about how the farm got ahead of them and required their full attention. Some would apply themselves with renewed vigor and make up lost ground, others switched gears or formats to accommodate their new reality, and others just sort of fizzled away. While I definitely fit the first half of that theme, I’m honestly not sure where this story ends. I took some good-natured kidding from one of our customers about “not having blogged in a while”, and after looking at the date on my last post I realized that that is a massive understatement! It’s … Continue reading

Choosing A Chicken Breed

The decision on which chicken to raise for meat was almost as hard as the decision to raise meat chickens at all! For whatever reason, there wasn’t a clear favorite that matched our requirements, values, and vision. Instead, we found ourselves mired in the multitude of breeds, trying to sort through the fluff (and feathers) to find a chicken that we could really get behind and support. Our difficulty stemmed from the lack of specialization in the non-industrial breeds, an abundance of fancy show breeds, and the presence of hybrid varieties targeting the alternative market. From a homesteading perspective, a “dual purpose” chicken would be a good thing, a relatively good egg layer that was somewhat edible when that time came. The problem with that concept from a business perspective, and ultimately the reason why breeds like the Cornish Cross (meat) and the White Leghorn (eggs) are so prolific in the … Continue reading

The Day To Day Life Of A Rancher: Fencing

Until yesterday, our cows and sheep have been living their lives in a feed lot-style paddock, eating bales of hay that we had cut when we first arrived on the farm. I’m grateful to have these paddocks available because we wouldn’t have been able to buy livestock without them, but I was also extremely cognizant of the fact that they weren’t living the way I wanted them to. The ground got very mucky around the bale feeders (especially when the snow thawed), the animals were dirty, and the ground was treacherous walking with all the pock marks made by the cows’ hooves. Overall the situation was ok, but not great. That has all changed now that I’ve recently finished my permanent fencing project for our south fields, a 17 acre portion of our property that is divided roughly in half by a hedge row. I’ve been concentrating on getting this … 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

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