Trying Some New Things

April 28, 2021

I purchased a silage tarp to prepare a seedbed for our sweet corn field. I’m hoping weeds will germinate under it, and then after I remove the tarp, I can plant into a cleaner soil.

We manage our sweet corn without heribicides or pesticides and weeds can be a problem.

Later, I plan to use the tarp to cover round bales of hay.

I was also inspired by a book, “Keeping Bees With a Smile,” which promotes natural beekeeping. The author claims an apiary can be started and maintained with wild swarms.

So I’ve installed a swarm trap and am looking forward to see if it attracts a swarm of honeybees.

Swarm trap

If the swarm trap works, I know I’m going to feel bad for the native pollinators as some people fear that the European Honeybee with their huge numbers, may limit the nectar resources for the native pollinators.

So I drilled some holes in a log I’m leaving in a conspicuous place to see if I can get some native bees to nest.

UPDATE: Taking orders for delivery every other Saturday to Madison. Next date May 8th.  Email Matthew with order and/or questions: oakgrovelane@yahoo.com. Thank you!


Sows in Sweet Corn

March 16, 2021
Susie, our oldest, most favorite sow, grazing last summer’s sweet corn.

I usually graze the sweet corn with the pigs after harvest, but this winter I let it stand.  Corn makes an excellent wind break and I wondered if it would help collect drifting snow and keep it off our lane.  

It did.  The snow was at least a foot deeper inside the corn than out.

I got the idea driving on highways in Iowa and Minnesota as its common to see 8 rows or so of corn left along the roads as a windbreak.  I’m not sure if the farmer is paid to do this by the county or state, but regardless, it works well, and the farmer will be able to harvest his corn in the spring with some loss.

Our extremely cold and snowy February gave way to a mild start to March and I started thinking and doing spring jobs.  

Winter has returned for a short stay, but I’m happy to have the sows knocking the corn down now.  Should make for easier tillage, soon I hope.

UPDATE: Taking orders for delivery every other Saturday to Madison. Next date March 27th.  Email Matthew with order and/or questions: oakgrovelane@yahoo.com. Thank you!


Found My Old Homemade Snowboard

February 5, 2021

Like most Americans, I save too much stuff.  But I’m glad I saved this old snowboard I made one winter night, so many years ago.

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“It shouldn’t be that hard to build a snowboard,” Jimmy said.

“Yeah, we could do that,” Doug said.

Jimmy, Doug and I were all home from our respective colleges on winter break.  

We always got together when we had a chance to hang out, practice our songs, (we had a house party band), and whatever else intrigued us.

I had been lamenting that I would like to have a snowboard, when the engineer and the architect decided that a snowboard was definitely doable.

“We can use my Dad’s tools, and he always has extra boards lying around,”  Jimmy said.

“Ok, let’s do it tonight!  We each have until dawn to build a snowboard.  Then we find a hill and race down!”  I said.

“Yes!  The Snowboard Challenge!”

We drove to Jimmy’s home farm.  Jimmy suggested we work in the dairy barn in the middle alleyway since it was super cold outside and the barn stayed relatively warm since the cows were kept in overnight.

Plus the barn had electricity, pretty good lights, and a radio with surround sound.  Jimmy loves to tinker.  When he learned that sound can be transmitted via metal, he taped a speaker wire to the metal milk line and taped a speaker to the milk line at the other end of the barn.

It worked perfectly.  Sound on both ends of the barn.

Jimmy now works as an electrical engineer for a dairy equipment company, so he’s still tinkering with pipelines. 

Doug has his own architect firm out in Vermont, still enjoying building things.

Jimmy got us set up with power tools and boards and misc other supplies.

Its a good thing Jimmy’s Dad’s cows were quiet and used to machinery, as we made a lot of noise when we set to work on our boards.  Jimmy’s Dad was super easy going about stuff like this.

We all were in high spirits as we started.  But I’m not a night person, so about 3 or 4 am I started feeling it.

“Matt.  Are you all right?” Jimmy asked.

I guess he found me standing, holding my board, not moving for several minutes.  I was nearly asleep on my feet.

But somehow each of us finished with our prototype snowboard.

“Where should we race?” Doug asked.

“Let’s go to my farm,” I said.  “We can borrow warmer clothes for you guys.

Mom was surprised to see us.  We braced ourselves with hot coffee.  Then I got some of my Dad’s coveralls for Jimmy and Doug and we set out for the steepest hill we could find.

“Go!”

It wasn’t so much of a race.  More of see who could actually ride their board down the hill.

Doug and I kept practicing.  We gave each other’s boards a try. 

Jimmy is not a morning person, and the night finally caught up with him.  I remember him lying on his back in the snow, one arm up over his eyes to shield the sun, napping.

Now middle-aged with life’s responsibilities, I don’t get to see my old buddies as often as I wish.  But we keep in touch and always have a good time when we do get together.


2021 Herd Boar: End Zone

January 22, 2021

End Zone, 2021.

Unwanted weight gain. A problem my breeding boar and I share.

I would like to keep End Zone around for a long time to service his contemporary sows. And the best way for me to keep him active and doing his job is to keep him from getting too heavy.

Its important for people as well. I read that losing 10 lbs is like taking 40 lbs off your joints. I’m sure that’s an over simplification, but the principle is probably right.

As I age, I find it easier to gain weight and more difficult to lose. I’m back on the meat and egg diet for a few weeks, but am not losing the weight as fast as I did 12 years ago when I started this blog.

Below are a couple of photos of End Zone from last year about this time. I was interested to see how much he has grown so I used myself as a reference point.

I would estimate he’s grown 2 to 4 inches and 150 to 200 lbs.

I’m curious to see what he looks like next year at this time.

End Zone, 2020.


2020 Turkeys

December 3, 2020

This is our fourth year of raising turkeys. Due to a cancelled butcher date our first year, this is also the fourth year of butchering turkeys on the farm. Customers drive to the farm and pick up their fresh turkey, works pretty slick.

Butchering turkeys is not my favorite job, but our closest poultry processor is about an hour and a half away, and that would require two trips, one for the live birds, and one to pick up processed birds, so more than 6 hours, plus customers would still have to get their turkeys somehow.

Turkey butchering day starts with early chores and starting by 8:30 am processing, done by noon, and then customers start rolling in. I don’t set an end time, but thankfully all the customers arrive before my bedtime.

The weather was miserable for turkey day this year with a snowstorm the night before, meaning I had to move snow in the early am, followed by snow and rain all day. But we had a great crew of friends to help butcher and a steady stream of customers all afternoon. The weather wasn’t able to dampen my spirits.


The Great Compost Delivery of 2020

November 15, 2020
When I conceptualized the idea of a compost delivery back in the spring, maybe I didn’t think I would survive to fall!  When the time came, it was more difficult than I had imagined.


We hadn’t had the tall sides on my Dad’s old 1992 Dodge diesel truck in over 10 years.  Rust had corroded the slots the sides fit down into, so we had to get out our little Oxy acetylene torch and cut away the rust before we could fit the sides in.


Then I loaded the truck full of compost and watched the tires squat.  My trepidation grew.  Was I going to make it to Madison?


The next morning I took off on my route.  Did you know there are websites that will help you plan the best route if you have multiple stops?  Bonus discovery.


I drove slow, 50 mph on the way up because I was worried about the weight.  But I made it!  Everyone was home and helped unload their order.  Thank you!


I think that will be my one and only compost delivery.  I always have compost though, so if anyone would like to come to the farm and pick some up for your garden, you are welcome to it.  

UPDATE: Taking orders for delivery every other Saturday to Madison. Next date December 5th.  Email Matthew with order and/or questions: oakgrovelane@yahoo.com. Thank you!


Compost Pile

October 30, 2020

I’m sharing my compost this year, so I’ve been working more diligently on it and am happy how its turned out.

Its hard to believe that a cow we lost to lightning in the spring has almost completely turned into soil.

UPDATE: Taking orders for delivery every other Saturday to Madison. Next date November 14th.  Email Matthew with order and/or questions: oakgrovelane@yahoo.com. Thank you!


Grass-Fed, Grass-Finished, Grass-Fattened

September 20, 2020

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Whatever you want to call it, these herbivores have been doing what they do.  Its been another excellent growing season here in southwest Wisconsin and the cattle show it.

We are finally catching up to the extra demand for local meats caused by Covid-19 and the resulting shortages.  We’ve taken care of our long-time customers and picked up a few new ones as well.

With all the turmoil and trouble so many are experiencing, we count our blessings every day.

UPDATE: Taking orders for delivery every other Saturday to Madison. Next date October 3rd.  Email Matthew with order and/or questions: oakgrovelane@yahoo.com. Thank you!

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Synergy/More Good Eats

August 27, 2020

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My friend Grant says this loaf of bread’s main ingredient is Curiousfarmer sweet corn.  It tasted so good, I brought him more corn and commissioned more loaves.

Jeremy’s tomatoes are really starting to produce.  My favorite is the yellow.

These two, plus Curiousfarmer sliced ham and mayonnaise, make a delicious supper most nights of the week.

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Attention to Detail and Changing Jobs

August 25, 2020

 

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Twine threading through my New Holland square baler.  We remove the last bale from the baler at the finish of haying season and have to rethread the twines at the beginning of the next.  It doesn’t work unless its exactly like this, so I took this photo so I could remember, and save myself some frustration.

If I had to square bale every day I’m sure I would come to dread the job.  But because we only do it a few days a summer, its actually exciting.  We round bale a lot more.

Changing jobs frequently suits me well.  Even menial labor can be pleasant if it doesn’t consume the whole day.  This is one of the reasons I love farming.  Often, my body is engaged in menial labor while my mind is busy working on a more difficult problem.

A new customer asked about the treatment of our animals from our farm to slaughter.  I’m confident our animals are among the most humanely raised on the planet.  We look at each species and strive to give them what they want: Pigs root, Cows graze in a herd, Chickens forage for bugs, etc.

And I deliver to our butcher and walk them all the way to the kill floor.  I don’t stay to see them killed, but Avon wouldn’t have a problem having me stay as they kill as humanely as possible.  I’m much more concerned with a slick walkway than with Avon’s slaughter technique, as hogs and cattle don’t understand they’re about to be slaughtered, but they definitely experience fear if they don’t have secure footing.

Another reason I like Avon is they’re changing jobs throughout the week just like my farming.  They only kill animals a couple of mornings a week.  The rest of the week they’re cutting up animals, or curing meat, or dealing with customers.  Unlike threading my square baler once a year, Avon is doing jobs every week, staying proficient, yet changing jobs every day to keep things fresh.

UPDATE: Taking orders for delivery every other Saturday to Madison. Next date September 5th.  Email Matthew with order and/or questions: oakgrovelane@yahoo.com. Thank you!

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