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.
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.
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.
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: email@example.com. Thank you!
We’ve had a lot of dogs on the farm. Thinking about the Rottweillers. I guess we had only two.
The first one had kind of a weird looking head. Gus was his name. He had seizures so we had to put him down. I think Dad got what was considered a good buy, but of course it didn’t turn out to be.
The second, Hans, is the one everyone remembers because he got so big. Well over a hundred pounds. He was a pretty good dog. He showed some aptitude for livestock herding, but was generally too rough.
I remember one time loading hogs with Dad. Hans bit into the rear of a hog and a chunk of quivering ham fell out onto the ground. We stopped having him help us load after that.
Another time we were checking cows with new calves out in the pasture in the spring of the year. The dogs liked to run along with the jeep or ATV and most of the time the dogs were very aware of the momma cows as they are protective of their newborn calves and will charge dogs or anything else that looks threatening. Hans never paid any attention to the cows. He just trotted along like the top predator he was. He must have gotten too close and one of the cows decided to chase him away and started towards him. Hans didn’t appear to notice her until the last instant when he turned and ferociously bit her on the nose. That’s all it took for the cow to hightail it away from him.
When we ran the calves through the corral for vaccinating and castrating, we always locked the dogs up because its already stressful for cattle to be corralled and seeing dogs just makes it worse. But dogs, at least every dog I’ve ever been around, always know what is going on in their surroundings, and when we let Hans out of the basement, he ran straight down the hill to the corral. We forgot about him until a couple of hours later when we saw him waddling up the hill, his belly visibly distended, filled with all the testicles of the calves we had castrated that day.
Hans was never trained as a guard dog, but he had some natural instincts. The dogs slept in a non heated porch in the warm months of the year. My parents would latch the screen door shut last thing at night. One morning when my Dad went out to do chores, he found the screen door broke open. He was kind of upset until he went to open up the driveway gates and found a golf club lying in the driveway. Someone, we never found out who, so it may have been someone with bad intent, was down our half mile dead end road opening up the gates into our yard at night. Hans sensed trouble and met them at the gate. They didn’t get the gates open, and they never came back for the golf club.
Below is the largest poison ivy vine I’ve ever seen. Doug said loggers used to eat a little bit to immunize themselves against its effects.
I visited with Doug over the course of the weekend and I heard him say, “It’s all there,” several times. It’s a vague enough saying you can use it just about anywhere. I think the first time I heard him say it was out on a nature walk, and the next time was in exclamation of the excellent chili, (great food, by the way).
“It’s all there, that’s your motto isn’t it?” I asked.
“Well I don’t know if it’s my motto,” Doug said. “But’s it’s not a bad one to have.”
“It just about says it all,” I said. “I think I’m going to make it my motto.”
And I am.
I think about my boys who used to love to put lego projects together. We would scissor open the bags containing all the tiny pieces, and they would follow the instructions step-by-step, ending up with the prescribed toy. I remember the drama that would ensue if one piece was missing, as now it wasn’t all there, and everything was ruined.
Now we have a drawer filled with loose lego pieces. My five-year-old nephew makes a bee-line to that drawer when he comes over. He happily builds something excellent, and then we let him take it home. We joke that we are slowly transferring the contents of the drawer to my sister’s house.
But we never worry about drama with the lego drawer. I think it’s the combination of passion with autonomy, and the sense that it’s all there. Nothing is missing, and they are confident in their abilities to create something cool.
I’m all signed up and excited to attend the Midwest Wild Harvest Festival, September 12th-14th at Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin. It’s three days and two nights of foraging fun at Badger Camp. I can’t believe it’s been seven years since I attended something like this.
Below is a photo from a foraging weekend near Lacrosse, Wisconsin. Sam Thayer is in the left of the photo. He and his wife Melissa, are two of the organizers of this festival. A fun added benefit for me, and for the rest of the campers, he said modestly, is that my pork will be served at some of the meals.
I don’t think it’s too late to sign up. If you are interested in wild edibles, this will be a weekend you won’t forget. I hope to see you there!
This is a photo our friend Jeanenne took of my Dad helping me move farrowing huts about a month ago. Click on the picture to enlarge, and click again for more detail. She has a nice camera and took the photo without us even knowing it. Zooming in changed the perception, though.
The bare dirt in the background is my Dad’s corn field about a quarter mile away. The white water tower with the Redbird on it is about three miles away as the crow flies. In the foreground you can see how tall the rye bordering the sweet corn has grown. There are some flags in the sweet corn field where I planted squash and pumpkins.
When Jeanenne gave me this photo she told me how nice it is to see family working together. And she’s right, that’s one of the benefits of farming. I’ve spent many hours working with my Dad.
There is also a little time for play. I remember one Christmas, Dad put up a basketball hoop in the barn. My sisters being too little to play against me, I always bugged Dad to play. He would usually indulge me in a quick game, especially after chores were done.
Spring always has an effect on me. Along with being outside more, I’m reading and writing more, and sleeping less. It’s a funny thing, I always think I’ll get more reading and writing done in the winter, but it appears I enter a state of semi-hibernation, only to emerge revitalized in the spring.
The bottom photo shows a tradition in my family of balancing an egg during the spring and fall equinox. Egg balancing research says that this is a myth and eggs can be balanced any time of year.
We’ve tried it various times, and it’s so easy now, yet so difficult at other times, I find it difficult to believe science. Experts speculate my delusion fuels my success, and I’m open-minded enough to admit they may be right, but I’d rather be a successful delusional than a know-it-all failure. Cheers!
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.
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!
The Madison Primal/Paleo Meetup group toured our farm Sunday morning. It’s always fun meeting new people who are engaged and interested in what we do. Most were from the Madison area, but a few were from as far away as Michigan and Iowa.
I showed them a bred gilt who I predicted would farrow within a week. She farrowed much sooner than that. By 5 pm she had twelve nice piglets. I wish the meetup could have seen it.