Spring 2018: Farm Update

May 1, 2018



Braden finished his movable chicken pens and I helped him move his broiler chickens out to pasture.  We have had the coldest April on record, so there isn’t much pasture, but the chickens seem happy in their new home.

Braden put his own spin on a Salatin style, movable chicken pen.  I hope to post with more detail in the future.  The pens are moved daily to fresh pasture.  The pen is keeping the predators away from the chickens, and the chickens are really thriving.  He is still planning on having freshly frozen chickens for the May 26th market.



I helped Daniel rototill the garden and she has started moving her indoor started vegetables outdoors, and also started direct seeding some of her crops.

I rototilled the sweet corn plot and plan to plant next week if the soil continues to warm. We should have delicious sweet corn around the first of August.



Winter/Spring farrowing has gone well, and I have lots of healthy feeder pigs.  My fall-calving herd has wintered well on our home-raised hay, and are chomping at the bit to get on fresh pasture.

Cattle aren’t particularly smart, but they are masters at body language.  They know exactly what it means when they see me repairing electric fence.  I’m sure they are salivating as much as when Pavlov’s dogs hear a bell.


Contour Strip Cropping, Farm Update

July 19, 2014


There must be some sort of dubious record I am setting this year.  The top photo was taken July 6th.  It shows the contour strips, which is how we farm the hillsides in Wisconsin to prevent soil erosion.

The green in the foreground is a little strip of hay next to the road which was cut and baled in June.  Next up in the photo is very mature, cut hay.  Yes, the last of first cutting was made in July.  The green strip in the middle of the photo is hay which was cut and baled in May, and is now ready to be cut for a second time.  The light colored strip above that is my oats and hay new seeding which is cut and drying, waiting to be baled.

So, yes, I made first cutting hay in May, June, and July.  I know of no other farmer who is as on the ball, and behind, as myself.  At least I’m still laughing.



The bottom photo shows my sweet corn on June 26th.  Beyond the sweet corn are the farrowing huts.  I’ve had 14 beautiful June litters.  Beyond the farrowing huts are my grass-finished steers.  I started them grazing hay fields at the end of June.

Sorghum/Sudangrass and Forage Peas for Pig Pasture

June 20, 2014



I planted two forages for a pig pasture this spring which are new to me.  I’m very pleased with the forage peas.  I’m not happy with the sorghum-sudangrass, but don’t feel I utilized it correctly.

I no-till planted both into last year’s pig pasture on April 23rd.  I used my single-disc John Deere grain drill, which is not considered a no-till drill, but works great when the ground is mallow in the spring.  I planted about 25 lbs to the acre for each.

Above you can see what most of the pasture looks like.  Three-foot high forage peas growing thickly.  The warm-season sorghum-sudangrass has been overpowered by the cool-season peas.

Below you can see an open area where each plant is growing side by side.  The sorghum-sudangrass is thriving here.  It looks like corn.  The pea is the green and white leaf on the left.

The sorghum-sudangrass is called Surpass BMR 6, and is from Lacrosse Seeds.  I can’t even find the forage pea on their website.  It’s safe to say the pea did better, but I believe it’s all in how I used them.

Planting them together and early in the spring is an advantage for the peas, and the results bear witness.  I shouldn’t have planted them together, but I wanted to try both plants and wasn’t sure I would have another spot to plant in this year.  Waiting another year is just too much.

I also think the sorghum-sudangrass would have like to have been planted deeper, but no-till into mallow ground worked great for the pea.  On a side note, Buckwheat no-tills very well in the spring, although it is not supposed to tolerate frost.




I couldn’t resist including the photo below with my model sow amongst the purple and red flowers of alfalfa and red clover.  The sow was pictured last September as a gilt with her beautiful litter.  She has large, erect ears, which make it seem as if everything is exciting to her.  Maybe everything is.


Use It or Lose It

March 15, 2010

Compost tea made with 27 things,

Full of promise, friable and loose.

Shall we put the compost on the grass in the spring?

No let’s wait a little longer so it’s not used up.

Shall we disc the compost into April oat fields?

No let’s wait a little longer so it’s not used up.

Shall we plow the compost into May corn fields?

No let’s wait a little longer so it’s not used up.

Let’s stir the compost, let’s examine the tea.

It’s stronger and smaller, but it still smells sweet.

Shall we fertilize fields after hay’s put up?

No let’s wait a little longer so it’s not used up.

Shall we spread on new seeding after straw is made?

No let’s wait a little longer so it’s not used up.

Shall we sprinkle on pastures before an August rain?

No let’s wait a little longer so it’s not used up.

Everything is brown and harvest is complete,

Let’s put it on the fields before the snow is deep.

O farmer, tight farmer, you have waited too long.

The compost shrunk and the compost is gone.

Planting Oats

April 11, 2009




My niece and I planting oats/barley.  In the background is my house and red barn.  The three white buildings over the top of my head are called “hoop buildings.”  This is where most of our hogs are raised.

This field was corn last year.  I plant a mix of oats and barley.  It will be combined about August 1 and used as hog feed.  The straw will be baled and used as bedding in the hoop buildings.  We also plant alfalfa and grasses now as an underseeding.  It will grow up under the oats and will be grazed by the cows in the fall.  Next year it will be an alfalfa/grass hay field.  It will remain a hay field for three years, then one to two years corn, then back to oats.  That is our crop rotation.  Check out my seeding recipes here.