Summer Litters, Link-Love Sept. 2013

September 19, 2013

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Duroc gilt in the woods with her litter of eleven piglets.  Fourteen gilts farrowed this summer.  It’s amazing how well they do in the warm months compared to the struggles I had last March.

Most farrowed in a shelter, or I put a shelter over them after farrowing, as I let each choose her own spot to farrow.  Two gilts were in a spot in the woods inaccessible to a shelter so I left them alone.  They raised ten and eleven piglets each.

I wouldn’t have had the courage to farm this way without reading other bloggers, specifically the granddaddy of farm bloggers, Walter Jeffries.  Recently, he posted a photo showing a 300 lb, eight-month-old boar, raised on nothing but pasture and dairy products.  Walter is a paradigm shifter for me.

I’ve been without a computer for the past couple of months, hence my lack of posts, but I’ve kept up on the farm blogs I read and enjoy and wanted to share some more with you.

Bruce King wrangles with government agents and speaks at government meetings.  I love hearing about his civic adventures.  He also purchased a confinement dairy farm recently and is transforming it to his vision.

Andrew at Green Machine Farm writes about his new life as a farmer.  He educated us on bat houses recently.  Would you believe he made a bat house out of plywood, painted it black, and placed it on the south side of a shed?  How anything could survive a midwestern summer in that box and not cook to death is beyond me, but Andrew informs us he already has bats living in it.

Gordon Milligan is a train conductor in Chicago.  He has a dream to farm and raise his own food when he retires.  He and his wife recently purchased a farm in Iowa and are anxiously awaiting the day they will call it home.

Lastly, I read a blog from a farmer in France.  I like to see what Brent is doing with his farm because the soils and underlying limestone are extremely similar to my farm.  He grass-finishes Salers cattle, grazing alfalfa/orchard grass hay fields.  Check out his blog and see if the photos of his land seem similar to mine, like in the photo below of my steers grazing a fresh hay field.

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Happy Mother’s Day

May 8, 2011

I’m having camera, computer, and time issues, so I’m behind starting the “Square-foot Saturday” series.  I do have pictures, and will post soon.

What have I been doing?  I planted oats/new seeding Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.  I planted corn Wednesday and Thursday.  I cleaned two hoop buildings out Friday and Saturday.  Long days.

And family-time always keeps me busy.  I took the boys to a local greenhouse, and we picked out a Rose bush for Citygirlfriend for Mother’s Day.   She’s been working hard on her flower garden.  I picked out a Spirea bush for my Mom.

Motherhood probably tops the military for “toughest job you’ll ever love.”  So to all the moms, Happy Mother’s Day!


Michael Pollan Speaks in Madison Wisconsin

October 11, 2009

“What is all the fuss about?  Why are farmers protesting?”  I thought as I sat and listened to Michael Pollan speak at the Dane County Farmer’s Market.   After reviewing my notes I started to understand why he upsets some farmers.

Michael Pollan is an excellent writer and speaker who can convincingly make a case for probably anything he feels strongly about.  I thank him for caring about food and for pointing out a flawed system.  I won’t be signing a petition to appoint him Ag Secretary though.  Because, as even he admitted, policy is not his area of expertise, and I fear the wheels would come off if he were allowed to drive.

I feel strongly about this because I see parallels between the American farm and food system and my own.  My farm is transitioning from commodity-based livestock production to direct-market livestock production with minimal purchased inputs.  We are not relying on an off-farm salary while we make this transition, so changes are made cautiously and evaluated every step of the way.  Whatever the flaws of the American farmer and food system, we do feed a lot of people.  And that is worth something.

I’m intrigued by organic production, but fear I don’t have the time or patience to learn.  I would love to help a young couple start an organic CSA on part of my farm.  Then my curiosity would be filled as I reported on what they did.  And they would have access to land to realize their dream to farm and feed people. 

 

But enough about me, let me tell you what Michael Pollan had to say.

There is a movement rising to change the American food system.  Nearly 8,000 people turned out for his speech on the UW campus.  And there was evidence of pushback as protesters also were in attendance.

Mr. Pollan said the goal of the American food system should be: “To provide fresh, high-quality food to everyone in USA and a decent return to American farmers and contribute to the solution of environmental problems.”

Hard to argue with that.  But then he connects the dots between the environmental crisis on one side and the health crisis on the other.  Guess what he place in the middle as causative:  Agriculture.

Mr. Pollan said modern industrial agriculture drinks oil and spews greenhouse gas.  He said agriculture used to use one calorie of fossil fuel to produce two calories of food.  Modern agriculture uses ten calories of fossil fuel to produce one calorie of food.  He said it takes 28 ounces of oil to produce one double quarter pounder at McDonald’s.  I don’t know if that was with cheese.

I have seen figures like this before and I question them.  I will be writing a post this winter detailing how much oil my farm uses and how much food we produce because I’ve been curious about this.

Mr. Pollan then says that energy comes from the sun and Photosynthesis is the only free lunch.  He would like to wean the food system off of fossil fuels and put it back on sunshine.  Food can be resolarized.

The health care crisis is code for ‘cost of industrial food production.’  Since 1960, spending on health care has risen from 5% of GDP to 18% of GDP as the amount spent on food has decreased from 18% to 9.5% of discretionary income.  I don’t buy into this simplified argument.

Mr. Pollan says we still need to support farmers.  We just need to change the subsidies to reward quality and diversity and environmental solutions instead of rewarding for quantity. 

I agree that government programs become ‘monsters’ that seek to sustain themselves rather than accomplish whatever it was designed to accomplish in the first place.  I think we need results-based government programs.

Mr. Pollan spoke about our food culture.  “We need to reregionalize food.  People need to learn to eat from a shorter food chain.  He says the USDA is starting to get this and used the example of the new, ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’ program.

“We need to teach our children how to eat lunch.  This is a controversial statement until you consider that we are teaching them how to eat lunch by giving them chicken nuggets and tater tots and ten minutes.”

Michelle Obama was applauded for her organic garden and for speaking out about the importance of growing and cooking real food.  Claire Strader introduced Mr. Pollan, which was fitting because she is a Wisconsin grower that has become the White House gardener.

Mr. Pollan doesn’t feel there is a lack of farmland.  But there is a lack of farmers.  We have been demeaning farmers for the last 100 years and that has resulted in a brain drain on the farm.  That is something we both agree on.  It is going to take major brainpower to continue to feed people in a sustainable way.


Traffic Accident

April 26, 2009

I’m ok and no one was hurt, but I was in a traffic accident three hours ago.  I was on my way to church in my truck and a minivan was pulled over on the wrong side of the road delivering a weekly shopping paper into a mailbox.  I slowed down and moved into the other lane to go by them.  As I came closer they pulled back onto the road right in front of me.  I was going at least 40 mph and would have hit them head-on.  I instinctively chose the ditch.  I hit a culvert almost immediately and went airborne for 35 feet landing with the front end of my truck digging out the yard.  I rolled to a stop and took off my seatbelt.  My airbag didn’t activate.  If I hadn’t been wearing my seatbelt I would have broke my neck in the cab or  in the windshield. 

I know the guy whose front yard I ended up in.  Dave happened to be looking out his window and saw the whole thing.  He thought it was going to be a head-on and was amazed I avoided them.  I would have seriously messed them up because I had all the momentum.  They pulled off the road and walked to my truck.  They were more shook-up than me, and I found myself consoling the woman who had been driving.

We called the police and waited for them to come and fill out an accident report.  It turns out her license had been suspended and she had been picked up for that before.  She told me her eyes were blurry and she doesn’t see well.  Her brother-in-law was riding with her.  He didn’t have a license either.  I could tell right away they were not healthy people.

T’he police officer wouldn’t allow them to drive home, of course.  She received a ticket for operating without a license and for operating on the wrong side of the road.  And she couldn’t call her husband because the phone in their house was out.  So Dave offered to pick me up in Argyle where they lived if I wanted to drive them home.  So I found myself driving home the people who caused me to wreck my truck.  If Idon’t laugh I’ll cry.

All in all, I’m very happy and give thanks to God.  No one was hurt.  Be safe and drive defensively.


Bottle Calf

April 18, 2009

 

 

My niece visited last weekend.  She said she wanted a “bottle calf.”  A bottle calf is an orphan and we don’t usually have one.  My niece must have inherited the wishing ability from her grandma.  The next morning we found a cow that had given birth to twins.  Cows are not like ewes and will usually only claim one calf and leave the other one to die.  One of the twins was strong and had already nursed.  The other twin was weak and cold so we brought him to the barn and my niece gave him a bottle of milk replacer.  She named him “Honey.”

A couple days later a cow gave birth to a calf that was premature and died.  We walked the cow into the corral and placed her in the catch chute and helped Honey nurse the cow.  The cow wanted a calf and after a couple of days she now claims Honey as her own.  The cow is happy to have a calf and Honey is happy to have a mom.  My niece returned home and would no longer be helping with chores, so we were happy to not have a bottle calf to take care of.


Looking for Feedback

March 6, 2009

*New picture of my cattle on the For Sale page.

Thank you for your interest in the meat diet.  The meat diet will finish March 15.  I will take a blood test March 16.  I should have the results up by March 18.

I started the meat diet to satisfy my own curiosity.  Until I started connecting with others through the internet, I knew of no other person that had read “Good Calories, Bad Calories.”

I realize now, that I am not a lone wolf.  I have found excellent nutrition and lifestyle blogs:  Mark’s Daily Apple, Hyperlipid, Protein Power.

The original intention of this blog, though, was to “connect people with farmers.”  My thought is that people are longing for a greater connection with their food and farmers.  In the not-so-distant past nearly everyone was a farmer.  Then, everyone grew up on a farm.  Then, everyone’s grandparents had a farm.  Now, most have lost that connection.  This is probably part of the reason that farmer’s markets have been increasing.

So, I am looking for feedback.  You may have came here for the meat diet.  Did you find anything else interesting or useful?  Do you want a greater connection to food and farming?  What are you curious about?  Would you like to see more pictures or video?

Some post ideas I have, include:  US farm program, genetics-bull buying, Hispanic farm workers, hay sale, nutrient content of manure, nutrient removal by crops, breeding chickens, cattle sale, pork carcass, heritage breeds, GM corn, spring planting, spring calving, our chores, backyard chicken production, getting started with pig production.

Thank you for your feedback.

Matthew


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