Innisfree Farm: Day 16 – winter grass

What do pastured cattle eat during the winter?  Hay!  These bales are around 3 1/2 feet tall, and 6 of them will fit in our bale wagon.  Depending on how cold/snowy it is during a given week, it will take our 30 cows & calves 3-5 days to eat all that…so we need a lot! […]

What do pastured cattle eat during the winter?  Hay!  These bales are around 3 1/2 feet tall, and 6 of them will fit in our bale wagon.  Depending on how cold/snowy it is during a given week, it will take our 30 cows & calves 3-5 days to eat all that…so we need a lot!  This is hay stored in our barn, and we also have outside storage for more bales.  There is a “bale spear” attachment for our tractor that we spear the bale with, then move it to the wagon.  The cows are always pretty excited to see the empty wagon leave the paddock and return full of bales – they usually don’t even wait until we’ve parked the wagon to stick their heads in and start munching.

This just shows that you *can* raise good beef on grass…corn isn’t necessary.  We feed them bales, oats (which is more of a treat than anything), and we also have large mineral buckets out for them (no grass is perfect, and the minerals our grass lacks are important for healthy pregnancies and calves, so the mineral buckets are their “daily vitamins”).

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Innisfree Farm: Day 14 & 15 – not just farming

Adding an off-the-farm job considerably reduces (by about 45 hours a week, including travel time) the amount of time I’m actually at the farm.  Here’s what I usually do during the week. 6:15-7:00 – get up, get moving, get ready for work (includes making coffee, packing lunch) 7:15-3:15 – teaching at the high school (this […]

Adding an off-the-farm job considerably reduces (by about 45 hours a week, including travel time) the amount of time I’m actually at the farm.  Here’s what I usually do during the week.

6:15-7:00 – get up, get moving, get ready for work (includes making coffee, packing lunch)

7:15-3:15 – teaching at the high school (this can vary on the end time due to meetings, helping students, talking with colleagues, etc)

3:30-4:00 – get home, check e-mail/facebook, maybe a snack, change to farm clothes

4:00-4:30ish – work on whatever needs done – moving bales for the animals or any of the infinite projects that are going on at any one time, either inside or outside

4:30-6:00 – feed/water animals, collect and clean eggs, housework, projects

6:00-7:00 – supper

after 7:00 – pretty much anything! Work in studio, hang out with Denny, go out, wash laundry, blog, more and other projects…

10:30ish – off to bed

I usually take one day for egg and coffee deliveries, and we have a staff meeting usually once a month, so that changes those days.  Flexibility is very important, which is hard for me at times, since for most of my day, I have a very rigid schedule.  Some days I get home and things go as planned.  Some days I get home and there is something unexpected that needs done, so the plan gets modified. Some days I deal with that better than others…ha!

 

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Innisfree Farm: Day 13 – free range

According to the USDA fact sheet on meat and poultry labeling terms, “free range/free roaming” means “Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.” Well, that seems a little vague.  Do the chickens have to actually *go* outside? Is there enough area for all of the chickens to […]

20130111_170100According to the USDA fact sheet on meat and poultry labeling terms, “free range/free roaming” means “Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.”

Well, that seems a little vague.  Do the chickens have to actually *go* outside? Is there enough area for all of the chickens to be outside at the same time, and to peck, scratch, take a dust bath, flap around, and generally be chickens? What is the outside – a grassy field, concrete, a dirt pack? Have the chickens even ever been outside before to know what that little opening in the wall is for?

Here you can see what our “free range/free roaming” chickens look like.  The white building in the background is their coop – nesting boxes, roosts, water, grit, oats, non-medicated laying mash.  The gate is to the official fenced in “chicken yard” (the cow area is to the right of the yard, and our garden is to the left of the yard), but it’s just about always open (and even if it’s shut, the chickens just fly over it!).

We’ll just keep saying it – know your food producer, and you won’t have to wonder whether or not the chickens you bought were truly free range.

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Innisfree Farm: Day 10 – homegrown lunch

Tomorrow’s lunch, brought to you by Innisfree Farm. Greens grown in our living room (see Day 6 for details on our indoor garden), sprouts grown on the kitchen counter, and I hard-boiled some eggs from the hens (not pictured). Our sprouter is from Victorio and is very easy to use.  Get your seeds, put some of […]

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Tomorrow’s lunch, brought to you by Innisfree Farm. Greens grown in our living room (see Day 6 for details on our indoor garden), sprouts grown on the kitchen counter, and I hard-boiled some eggs from the hens (not pictured).

Our sprouter is from Victorio and is very easy to use.  Get your seeds, put some of them in each tray, pour water over 3 times a day until they are big enough to eat.

Grow your food – it’s good!

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Innisfree Farm: Day 11 – mud

A burst of warmer weather is a nice respite from lifting gates over frozen cow pies and sliding around on ice-covered paths, but there is definitely a downside, especially with the rain we got.  Mud. Right now we have nicely thawed mud and snow slush on top of frozen mud and ice.  As you might […]

011a 011bA burst of warmer weather is a nice respite from lifting gates over frozen cow pies and sliding around on ice-covered paths, but there is definitely a downside, especially with the rain we got.  Mud.

Right now we have nicely thawed mud and snow slush on top of frozen mud and ice.  As you might expect, that’s not great for walking, moving the hay wagon, etc.  We had to move bales for the cows, and it was pretty treacherous – some parts that I thought were frozen were and some parts weren’t, making for slipping and sliding around the cow paddock and two unhappy ankles.

I would count “mud” as a sub-season of winter and spring, maybe with “frozen mud” and “slush mud” as sub-sub-seasons.  I think that’s as far as I will go with micro-climate, as it’s just to depressing to think about!

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Innisfree Farm: Day 9 – best laid plans

No, this is not my picture, but it’s where I was this evening!  We have a gate in the barn that separates the cow area from the horse area, and the cows like to lay up against that gate.  Well, after a while, the gate begins to bend, and eventually breaks.  We had put a […]

No, this is not my picture, but it’s where I was this evening!  We have a gate in the barn that separates the cow area from the horse area, and the cows like to lay up against that gate.  Well, after a while, the gate begins to bend, and eventually breaks.  We had put a piece of cattle panel in front of the gate to cover over the broken areas, but tonight, the gate gave way and the horses could not get into their eating area.  So after removing the broken bits and pieces of the old gate (and leaving the cattle panel in place), I head over to our local Tractor Supply and buy an new gate.  Denny helped me get the gate into position and Rosie (one of the horses) is right there to supervise and inspect this new thing in her area.

It’s always something….at least it was during “normal business hours”.  That doesn’t always happen – weekends and holidays are great times for things to break/puncture.

A_Tractorsupply

 

 

 

 

 

UPDATE!  Here’s the new gate.  Isn’t it pretty?!

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Innisfree Farm: Day 8 – elevator

We can see the Pleasant Hill elevator from our farm, and although it is no longer in use, I have fond memories of it.  Way back when, they had a glass bottle Coke machine – the kind where you open the long door and pull out the bottle after you put your money in.  They […]

Pleasant Hill elevator

Pleasant Hill elevator

We can see the Pleasant Hill elevator from our farm, and although it is no longer in use, I have fond memories of it.  Way back when, they had a glass bottle Coke machine – the kind where you open the long door and pull out the bottle after you put your money in.  They also would have a giant barrel of in the shell, salted peanuts, with a chair on each side and a bucket to put the shells in.  The elevator wasn’t just a place to buy feed, or dump corn, beans, and wheat at harvest (although we did plenty of that when it was open and Dad was still farming) – it was a gathering place.  Buying anything took quite a while, because someone would come in, you’d start chatting, and before you know it, it’s 40 minutes later and you still haven’t bought what you came in for.  And when I was old enough to take grain up to dump…I don’t know how many young women were driving tractors or grain trucks loaded down with grain to that elevator, but the guys always seemed to be a bit surprised to see me.

I always want to stop by working elevators now to buy a Coke and see if they have any peanuts…

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Innisfree Farm: Day 7 – chicken coop

Our chickens free-range during the day, but need a safe place to lay their eggs (outside nests can be raided, and it is a convenience for us to be able to collect all the eggs from one general location) and also to roost at night, without fear of predators.  Our chicken coop is a permanent […]

Our chickens free-range during the day, but need a safe place to lay their eggs (outside nests can be raided, and it is a convenience for us to be able to collect all the eggs from one general location) and also to roost at night, without fear of predators.  Our chicken coop is a permanent building on the farm, but depending on your needs/location, your coop could be part of a portable set-up.

We’ve been updating and adding bits to the coop – in the pictures below, the metal laying boxes on the right, the horizontal roosting bars, and the chicken feeder are original.  The diagonal roosting bars I made, and the plastic nesting boxes are from Little Giant (ordered off the internet!).  We will be adding another row of Little Giant nesting boxes and probably another roosting bar.  Our hens like to roost in the rafters as well.

In any dedicated animal building, the build-up of waste is an issue.  We shred all paper junk mail and dump it in the coop.  The chickens take care of spreading it around and working it into the poo.  There’s very little smell and the paper helps to compost the poo, as well as making it easier to shovel out of the coop in the warmer months.

If you’re thinking about getting some chickens for eggs and/or meat, it’s always a good idea to talk to someone so you don’t spend a lot of time, effort, and money for something that doesn’t do what you want.  We love to talk about what we’re doing, and to help others continue down their path to sustainability and food independence – feel free to e-mail us.

 

Nesting boxes & roosting bar.

Nesting boxes & roosting bar.

Nesting boxes, roosting bar, feeder.

Nesting boxes, roosting bar, feeder.

Roosting bar, nesting boxes, feeder.

Roosting bar, nesting boxes, feeder.

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Innisfree Farm: Day 6 – indoor gardening

It really is simple to grow your own food inside, in the winter. We got our materials from a variety of sources, including on-line, but I think you may be able to purchase everything at your local home improvement store. It’s a 4 level plastic shelving unit with heat mats under the trays and the […]

Salad and herbs, growing in our living room.

Salad and herbs, growing in our living room.

It really is simple to grow your own food inside, in the winter. We got our materials from a variety of sources, including on-line, but I think you may be able to purchase everything at your local home improvement store. It’s a 4 level plastic shelving unit with heat mats under the trays and the grow-lights are on timers to provide a sufficient amount of light. As you can see, we have some growing trays, but also recycle plastic containers to use for starting seeds. We’ve found that the clear containers don’t work as well (your mileage may vary!).

We have found that some things just don’t grow as well in the winter and inside, but experimentation is part of the learning process, right?

This is also how we start seeds in the spring – from experience, check the last frost date for your area and count backwards very carefully to determine when to start seeds. We had a tomato jungle last year because we planted them too early, and it wasn’t much fun trying to pull tomato stems out from around the grow-lights!

 

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