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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The Power of Yes

July 27, 2020

 

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We always eat well, but these next two weeks are remarkable.  It’s sweet corn season!

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Above is a corner of my sweet corn field I carved out for my friend Jeremy.  He grows tomatoes, eggplant, and cowpeas, and the rent he pays is all we care to eat.  This is the third year we’ve said yes to this arrangement and its delicious!

UPDATE: Taking orders for delivery every other Saturday to Madison. Next date August 22nd.  Email Matthew with order and/or questions: oakgrovelane@yahoo.com. Thank you!


Farming Quote by Eisenhower

April 6, 2020

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“Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

It may not be easy, but it is heaven on Earth for me.  

Spring always seem like a miracle, but this spring’s new births are especially welcome.  

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I marvel at the promise of a seed, all the instructions it needs, packed tightly inside.

All I do is drop them on the soil, and in a few weeks, luxurious green!

Seeding Compartments Grain Drill

Saturday morning Dane County Farmer’s Market closed due to Covid-19.  Making trips to Madison for meat drops every other Saturday.  Next delivery April 25th.  Contact Matthew for more information: oakgrovelane@yahoo.com.  Thank you!

 

 

 

 

 


2020 March Litters and Market Cancelled!

March 13, 2020

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Last weekend was a gorgeous weekend and all of our sows farrowed from Saturday to Tuesday, with 8 to 11 piglets each, and they are all doing fantastic.  Tuesday afternoon was only 46 F, but the sunshine felt so good, some of the piglets were sunning themselves in the entrance of a hut.

Humanity’s health is not doing so well.  The Dane County Farmer’s market is cancelled for this Saturday and I think its a wise move.  When I heard that some people can carry and spread Covid-19 without showing symptoms, I knew we were in trouble.  I’m reminded of some of the hog diseases that seem to sweep across the nation despite all our best efforts to prevent them.

So its all about flattening the curve now so that our health care professionals can treat everyone who needs attention.  So no more large gatherings for the foreseeable future.

I am however, making deliveries to Madison this Saturday.  If you would like something, email, and we will work out details.  Thank you and stay safe!


One Bad Day

June 21, 2019

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As caretaker of our animals, our goal is a beautiful life, with one bad day.  One bad moment actually, as Andrew and the crew at Avon Locker work to humanely kill the animals on butcher day.

Personally, we had a bad day the other day, as my Dad rolled his ATV.  He’s ok, but recovering, as he’s sore all over and his ear needed several stitches.

We were trying to get a cow in and Dad was driving along side her on a side hill and the cow kicked the ATV and somehow it rolled over on top of him and continued rolling off him.  I got to him shortly after and we took him to the ER to get checked out and his ear stitched.

One of the reasons we’ve needed to get cows in is we’ve had 8 sets of twins this year, blowing away the old record of 5 sets.  Our  cows have a difficult time keeping track of twin calves unless we get them in to a smaller pasture by themselves.  If we are unable to separate the cow and calves, we bring in whichever calf ends up abandoned and bottle feed it until it can live on grass.

Below is a photo of a bottle calf we took to the library for a kids program and short petting zoo.  The kids enjoyed petting the calf.  And at the risk of anthropomorphizing, I think the bottle calf enjoyed the attention as well.

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Spring Seeding and Disc Golf!

March 29, 2019

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Spring has sprung!  Two months of cold, snow, ice, rain, and flooding, and Mother Nature has wrought her miracles again with warm sun and drying winds.  The ground is dry enough to drive on, so I frost seeded a bag of red clover today.

Earlier in the week we entertained a special guest.  Derek Tonn is trying to be the first person to play 2,000 different disc golf courses.  If you don’t think that’s possible, there are over 6,000 courses in the United States alone.

As a reference, I’ve played 78 different courses, which is great, but my course is the 1,498th course Derek has played.  Its reassuring to meet someone crazier than myself.


First Litter, 2019

February 22, 2019

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2019 farrowing started well as Susie Q gave birth to 16 piglets yesterday, and after a cold night that dipped into the teens F, she still had 15 alive and nursing this morning.

I could see she was going to farrow yesterday morning so I put 2 straw bales and 1 hay bale loose where she could get to them and she spent a few hours building the giant nest you can see in the photo below.  It works better if you let the sow build her own nest for some reason.  All the women reading this are probably like, duh!

I wish all my sows were as good of mothers as she.  And humbly, I tell you she wasn’t even chosen as a breeder.  She was a runt that got accidentally bred, and after a first litter of only 4 piglets born, she’s had big litters since.  I think this is her 4th litter.

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Chester White Litter 2.0

November 8, 2018

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November, the last litter of 2018.  Cold as heck outside.  Warmer next to your momma.

This gilt was featured in one of my farm videos last year.  She is one of the piglets in the video.  I made the video because I was excited for new genetics.  This gilt and her siblings, were sired by Chester White semen I purchased from a boar stud in Iowa.

I wanted to try the Chester White breed because it is know for mothering ability and meat quality, two of the traits most important in my swine herd.  Also, Chester White is an American Heritage breed.

I love eating “General Tso’s Chicken” at the Chinese restaurant in town.  And I’m sure “General Tso’s Chicken” is heritage food to someone, but its not my heritage.  Farmers, let’s make our own heritage!

Back to this Chester White experiment.  I kept all five of the gilts from that litter and bred them to my Duroc boar.  They have done well, good mothers.  Interestingly, they don’t have as many piglets born as my Landrace genetics.  They seem to be very similar to my Duroc genetics, as I always select for mothering ability and meat quality when I purchase Duroc semen as well.

What’s nice is that I was able to conduct this experiment in a relatively short amount of time as the generation interval in swine is about a year.  The generation interval is the amount of time it takes for any species to reproduce itself.  In cattle its about two years.

The generation interval is important to geneticists and animal breeders because it adds a time element to any “progress” that can be made in a species.  I put “progress” in quotes because geneticists and animal breeders are people like you and me.  And like you and me, its way easier to make change for change’s sake, than to stop and figure out where exactly you want to go and why, and if its going to be a good when you get there.

Okay, if you’ve made it this far, comment and let me know what you think about “heritage” and “progress”.  And check out my youtube channel if you want to see more of our farm.  Thanks!


Picking Corn

October 18, 2018

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Had a good time picking corn with my Father the old fashioned way.  Dad said he used this New Idea corn picker 50 years ago to pick seed corn.  My Grandfather and his brothers owned a seed corn business years ago.

When my family moved to Wisconsin in 1975, my Dad was able to take this machine which was considered old even then.  He modified it by putting on a sheller attachment so you will notice the corn is shelled off the cob as it enters the wagon.

Even though its old, it works great.  Its tough to get parts, though.  And its slow.  We only picked about an acre per hour.

 

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We used this machine all through my childhood until we got our first combine.  Recently we have hired our neighbor to combine our corn.  Big machine, very fast.

Probably too big to fit through my woods as this field of corn is mine and is difficult to access with today’s large machinery.  I didn’t want to have to cut trees to get a combine in, so we put our New Idea picker back in use.  They didn’t really think the name through, I guess.

Thankfully the corn was only 18% moisture so I was able to put it in a bin with a fan and will blow air through it to dry it a couple of points more.  That along with weekly use should keep the corn in good condition.  If it was wetter, or I planned to sell it, I would have used gas to dry it down to 15% which is the industry standard.

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Pollinator-Friendly, Carbon Sponge!

September 14, 2018

 

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Curiousfarmer is a Pollinator-Friendly, Carbon Sponge!

What the heck does that mean?

Our farm is covered year around with perennial plants, shrubs, and trees.  Livestock are rotated around the farm, grazing plants near their peak, leaving about half, to speed regrowth.  

Plants pull carbon out of the atomsphere and deposit into the soil.  Plants managed well with rotational grazing are pulling near maximum carbon out of the atmosphere.  And we do this year after year after year.

We care about pollinators, and manage some plants specifically for them.  But even if we didn’t, rotational grazing perennial forages, without using herbicides or pesticides, results in many plants and flowers thriving which our beneficial to all the pollinators.  The Monarch butterfly is an indicator species, and I’m happy to say I have never seen greater numbers.  

This is all well and good, but I’m happy to say, we do this while producing delicious, nutritious, meat!  I am unapologetically, humans first.  I care about people, and people need to eat.  And we can and do produce food in a holistic way that feeds people while capturing carbon.

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An added benefit to capturing carbon and building organic matter is the added water holding capacity of healthy soil.  The earth covered in healthy soil becomes more flood and drought proof.

We were just about ready to take the third cutting of hay in the middle of August when the heavens opened and for about three weeks we had the wettest period I can ever remember.  Every day or every other day we received and inch to three inches of rain.

During this rainy period, other than the gravel driveway, I witnessed very little runoff of water.  The more rain water our soil captures, the more is available for plants to use and then respire back into the atmosphere in the gentlest way possible. 

 

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This is the third cutting of hay we made this week.  Phoebe, pictured above and below, is due to calve here in September.  We should have plenty of hay to feed her and her baby this winter.  The circle of life continues.

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