Dickies Insulated Bib Overall, Review

February 1, 2014

Dickies Insulated Bib Overalls

Restrictive, but warm!  I normally wear something like the ensemble pictured below.  But when the temps drop below zero F, I throw on these insulated bibs and am able to get my chores done without discomfort.

My Dad is a big fan of insulated coveralls.  He usually puts them on in October and doesn’t take them off until May.  But I’ve found them too restrictive.  I like to move when I’m outside.

That being said, I was too cold when the weather turned brutal.  So when Country Outfitters offered me clothes for free, I jumped at the chance to try these insulated bibs.

And I learned something.  I used to think when my toes and fingers got cold I had a cold toes and fingers problem.  So I would put on a second pair of socks and gloves to combat the problem with limited success.

Now I see when I put on these insulated bibs, it ties everything together and warms up my core.  This warmth radiates to my toes and fingers and I don’t need more socks or gloves.  Amazing!

Winter Farm Clothing

Evergreen Windbreak

January 22, 2014


I’ve never liked evergreens.  I think it’s because I distrust their green when the rest of the world is white and brown.  Something about their green is off, even in August when this photo was taken.

That being said, I planted this small windbreak late last summer when they were purchased for the corner of our yard.  I read the tags before planting and realized they need more space.  So I recommisoned them for a small windbreak in the pasture.

Fast-forward to now and we’ve been experiencing one of the worst winters in memory, with arctic blasts of wind dropping the windchill well below zero for days.  I feel more exposed on top of this hill and am thinking I need more windbreaks.  So I ordered 25 Colorada Blue Spruce from our county agency and may double or triple the order before this winter is through.

Farm Nightmares

January 1, 2014


Scientists think dreaming is a way for our brain to process fears and move on to make room for new threats.  This theory makes sense to me because of the way my nightmares have evolved over time.

School nightmares started early in life and lasted until I was in my thirties.  Having two stepsons has resulted in some nightmares concerned with their safety.  I also have farm nightmares, but these have changed as my style of farming has changed.

I used to have nightmares about animals in confinement.  A pen of pigs or chickens was forgotten for weeks, only to be remembered with panic, hoping they still had feed and water.

But now as more of my animals are on pasture more of the year, my dreams usually involve them escaping.  This is not unfounded as I once had cattle that ended up on the highway more than a mile away.  Hence, the gates you see in the photo above are closed every night, helping me sleep better.

The latest nightmare I had was interesting because it combined animals escaping and my stepsons.  I was checking the cattle in the rented pasture with my stepsons.  Much to my surprise, my breeding hogs had escaped into this pasture.  I started looking closer and found a couple of wild boars in with my sows.  This was not good, but then an elephant squealed and walked into view.  To my credit I didn’t panic, but calmly told the boys to check out the elephant.

Summer Litters, Link-Love Sept. 2013

September 19, 2013


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.


2013 Corn Height, 4th of July

July 5, 2013

2013 Corn Height

Shepherd decided not to show and butcher hogs at the fair this year.  We decided sweet corn would be his project.  Here he is checking for ears, (not there yet).  The corn is just starting to tassel which you can see on the left.  Also check out the cloud face above his head.

We are trying a supersweet variety this year from Harris seeds.  There are three main types of sweet corn: su or normal, se or sugary enhanced, and sh2 or supersweet, along with many different hybrids among the types.  Supersweet needs to be isolated from other types of corn or the sugar turns to starch.  This happened to my family when I was a kid and we couldn’t eat the corn.

Red-winged Blackbird Eggs

July 3, 2013

Red-winged Blackbird Eggs

I noticed a Red-winged Blackbird fly off her nest when I was mowing hay July 1st.  Most of the nests have been empty, but this must be their second brood because I’ve seen a lot of fledgling birds hopping and test-flying with their short wings.  I mowed around the nest but am not sure I did it any favors because it now sticks out to predators.  I’ll keep checking to see how it makes out.


Permaculture Planting

May 25, 2013


Piglets running across my Permaculture planting.  They dug up three Hazlenut before weaning.  I purchased a Jostaberry and a Blackberry from Jung’s to replace them.

All of my Permaculture reading this winter led me to want to play myself.  I’ve always wanted a windbreak north and west of my house, but I don’t like conifers.  So I designed what will hopefully grow into an edible windbreak.

In a short-bottomed Y, placed on the contour of the land, I chisel-plowed this spring, then planted the trees and shrubs I purchased from our county, Jung’s, and Chief River Nursery as they arrived.  I also dug a hole and placed a kiddie pool to collect rainwater for bucket irrigation when it turns dry this summer.


Below is a Juneberry.  I also planted Hazlenut, Highbush Cranberry, Jostaberry, and Blackberry bushes.  The trees I planted are Apple, Plum, Peach, Apricot, and Hackberry.  If this planting goes well, I have an idea to continue the bottom of the Y with the contour of the land and continue to farm each side of it.

It’s been said the best time to plant a tree is ten years ago, and the second best time is today.  The planting certainly doesn’t look like much today, but I hope I’m still blogging in ten years and can show you what it looks like then.


Cultivating Shitake Mushrooms

April 15, 2013

Mushroom Spawn

I studied Permaculture this past winter.  Reading fellow Wisconsinite Mark Shepard’s new book, Restoration Agriculture, inspired me to read all the books I could find in the Southwest Wisconsin Library system on Permaculture.

The pioneering books by Mollison and Holmgren are great, but the best book by far is Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture.  This Austrian farmer inspired me to try and cultivate mushrooms.  So I purchased a bag filled with mycelium plug spawn from Field and Forest Products. 

Drill a hole, hammer the plug in, then seal with wax.  Repeat every few inches until the entire log is covered.  Place in a shady place and keep moist.

If all goes well, the mycelium will spend the next year colonizing the rotting log.  The following year it will produce the fruiting bodies we call mushrooms.

I don’t know if this will work or if I’ll even like Shitake mushrooms, which is the variety I’m growing.  It looked like too much fun not to try, though.  Click on the bottom photo to enlarge and see better the tools of this project.

Mushroom Tools

Contest Finished: 12 Days

February 12, 2013

Contest Finale

Congratulations to John Roelli!  He guessed 14 days and was the closest to 12 days, which is how long it took to burn one of my rows, which is about 80% of a cord of wood.  Since John is a neighbor, I’m going to run some chocolates over now, and sweet corn later  when it’s in season.

I’m glad I took the time to measure how much wood I’m using.  It’s about double what I thought.  At this rate, I’m using two cords of wood per winter month.


Photo in Atlantic.com

February 10, 2013

A photo I posted about fencing was used in an Atlantic article on virtual fencing.  It’s a little bittersweet because the caption is, “A fence in need of repair.”  Another photo of mine was used in Progressive Forage Grower.  It’s fun to see my photos in other places.