Adios End Zone

November 4, 2021

Update: Last outdoor market November 13th. Turkey day November 22nd. Resuming winter meat drops in Madison, December 4th.

————–

Good bye to the biggest boar I’ve ever raised. A gentle giant, End Zone weighed 965 lbs at the sale barn in Iowa. He was also an excellent breeder until the end, when he just got too big.

His genetics aren’t lost. I’ve kept a couple boars and a couple gilts as breeders.

If I kept better records, I could trace this boar’s ancestors back about 40 generations on our farm. I wonder what my ancestors were like, 40 generations ago.

My sister enjoys researching our family’s history. That pursuit is all about seeing how far back you can go. Very interesting.

But really, if you want clues to your own genetics, look at your closest family. Their virtues and faults, which you probably know all too well, are susceptible in you.

And when examining faults, I’ve always found its more productive to look in the mirror!


Ground Bee Update

October 1, 2021

I swear I didn’t dig up the nest. As curious as I am, I’m also comfortable with mystery. The more I know, the more I know I don’t know.

But something did dig up the ground bee nest I’ve been watching. I’m guessing skunk. We’ve only had one bear sighting on our farm.

Below is a photo of some of the comb which was tore out of the nest. Have you heard of the theory that observing changes the observed?


Bees and Bats

September 19, 2021

Apologies for the quality of the photo, but I had to zoom to get this photo of my furry little friend. Can you see his face in the middle of the photo? He’s peaking out of the largest hole in the log.

I’m guessing he’s a Little Brown Bat, which is the most common species of bat in Wisconsin. Also, its a very small hole. I included my boot in the photo below for scale. The bat hole is in the largest log, center left of the photo, largest hole.

The only reason I was spending time observing this area is because I found a colony of bees entering and exiting the ground. The entrance to their home was not very visible, tucked under some of the woody debris. But about every 1 to 2 seconds a bee would be coming or going.

I’m guessing they may be a colony of Litigated Furrow Bees. They weren’t aggressive towards me as they continued their late summer work.


Vaccinations

August 23, 2021

I asked my Dad to recollect about vaccinations.  He remembered the days when Cholera and Erysipelas were devastating to swine, nearly 70 years ago.

When the vaccines were developed, Dad’s family built catch pens out in the pasture and herded the pigs into the pens and then proceeded to catch and vaccinate every pig.

It was a lot of work, but worth it, as it eliminated death loss from these dreaded diseases.  


Honeybee Update

July 14, 2021

Welcome! New and Returning, Dane County Farmer’s Market Customers!

——–

We haven’t had any luck trapping a honeybee swarm and I think I know the obvious reason why: there haven’t been any swarms in the area. In fact, I haven’t seen any honeybees at the farm.

There used to be two beekeepers that kept hives within a mile of our farm, but I think they’ve quit and no one has taken their place. So no honeybees.

It doesn’t bother me too much, as I was worried about the effect that hives of European Honeybees can potentially have on the native pollinators. So I’ll probably take my swarm trap down at the end of this month and try again next year, possibly at a friend’s farm.

The good news is we have tons of native pollinators. I often see several young bumblebees on the same plant along with sweat bees and other wasps, beetles, flies, etc.

Below is a photo I took of a sweat bee, I think. And above is a nice wild patch of Monarda, or Bee Balm, thriving in our pasture next to a creek.

dd


Back at Market! June 19th

June 4, 2021

We are back at the DCFM around the capitol square starting Saturday, June 19th. We are planning one more drop for those of you who like this protocol for Saturday, June 12th.

Thank you to all of you who helped us through this past year. We’ve been so blessed to be able to figure out new ways to continue to provide nutritious meat for your families.

We hosted a customer appreciation hog roast this past Memorial Day weekend. Everyone was really happy to get back out and socialize again. The weather was gorgeous. Thank you to all who attended and helped make the weekend possible.


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.

————-

“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.