The 2014 Review…Awards

And now the CHF 2014 awards presented by Chris Jordan.

Best Dressed

This year I nominate myself and humbly accept the award for best dressed. The holes in the clothes, the hair that says, “I’m already married.”, the too much stuff being carried to show off for my wife. Oh yeah. Winner.


Of course I’m kidding. Julie wins any beauty pageant. Even if she doesn’t try. Here she is not trying at Aunt Marian’s birthday party. Isn’t she pretty?


Top post

What do pigs do on a farm? This one wins every year. Talk about SEO. Sheesh.

I’ll tell you what pigs do. They escape and come looking for me…the guy who brings the food.


My favorite post…and the top post we published this year…

The Way I See you, The Way I Love You. Read it for yourself.


Most Valuable Player

We love our new chicken house. I can’t say enough about it. We have lost ZERO chickens to predation, it kept the birds cool and comfy in the summer. Egg production stayed high all summer. We captured manure in the bedding on the floor we could redirect to specific locations on the farm. It’s easy to move on down the road. Just great. I would make two changes to it though. The next one will be a little taller and four feet longer. And the nest boxes will be on the other side so we don’t get dripped on. Other than that…great.


Most improved

With a minimum of effort and expense and against my wishes, dad single-handedly and somewhat magically converted a field of corn stubble into a magical land of clover (and weeds). We cut it for hay then, later, we grazed our way through.


Favorite Book

I must have read The Farming Ladder 10 times this year but, in spite of that, I think I liked Farmer’s Progress better. What a great book. Well, that and Carry On, Jeeves. But please, let’s don’t think I’m an anglophile.


Best Money Spent

We bought a truckload of oak odds and ends from the local sawmill really just for the price of the hauling. This isn’t all of it. This is a nice picture Julie snapped for


Livestock and Farm Animals

What a great year. We had a hen go broody and hatched chicks we weren’t expecting. 5 calves were born with no problems at all. We raised pigs, we raised chickens, we had fun.


But you know, sometimes things just don’t make it on the farm. It’s a hard place. We lost a calf this year. That was pretty hard. A mink killed 12 ducks one evening. My youngest’s favorite cat got hit by a car. That was rough. There were also whole litters of kittens that didn’t survive. We really thought Horatio was going to pull through but another, older kitten took his mama’s milk. My oldest daughter took it pretty hard. But that’s just how it is. Animals have a hard time. Especially the semi-feral barn cats. Most especially the semi-feral barn cats we name.


Lesson Learned Repeatedly

Julie doesn’t want to milk. Every. Stinking. Day.


Aunt Marian

Aunt Marian was suddenly gone. One day she was peeling grapes at her sink. The next day she was in the hospital. Within a month we were remembering her life. At a birthday party this year she looked at a plat map with me. The map was from 1893 but farms don’t change hands frequently. She told us what she remembered about each farm, where the house was, how folks were related. She knew everything. We miss her every day.

AuntMarianSo that’s the year in review…awards for 2014. Some of that was pretty rough but we’re ready for more. Aunt Marian won’t fall asleep in a chair at the next birthday party but we move on. There are eggs to collect, cows to milk and calves to tag. There are children to raise. So here’s to 2015. We pray that God will enlarge our borders and keep us from harm.

One additional note, most of the pictures in this post were taken with Julie’s MotoX and are untouched. The old MotoX not the new one. That may be something we wonder about some day. I doubt a reader cares though. Indoor shots seem to suffer with that phone. The bearded Christmas selfie and the picture of Farmer’s Progress were both taken with my iPhone 5C…my employer’s iPhone 5C.

Budgeting Time…a Preview

There are only so many hours in a day.  I only have so much money.  The money thing is variable…I could do any number of things from a bake sale to a kickstarter campaign to make more money.  No amount of kickstarter could give me more time.  In theory I could hire an employee but there are things I just want to do.  Me.  You know?  For example, I can’t hire someone to play with my kids.  I also can’t hire someone to read for me.

Here is a list of books I’m currently reading or have in queue.  Several I could finish in a couple of hours, some will require several sittings.  At least one will require some serious rumination.

Mach II With Your Hair On Fire: The Art of Vision & Self Motivation

Sales book with an emphasis on seeing the world as you want it to be.  Julie won’t stop talking about it so it’s high on my list.

Living At Nature’s Pace: Farming And The American Dream

A series of essays about farming and the need for agricultural reform.  I have read this before so it should be quick.  I’m looking through several of Logsdon’s works for a few specific quotes for an upcoming post.

Restoration Agriculture

This book is turning my world upside down…and I’ve read a few permaculture books in my time.  Wow.  Just wow.  Look for more later.  He’s wanting me to tree my farm…for grazing.  Wow.  Use chestnuts as a source of High-Fructose Syrup.  Yeah.  He was recently on Agricultural Insights but you’ll have to pay for access to the archives.

The Resilient Farm and Homestead

This is a book you should have on your coffee table.  It’s beautiful.  Beyond that, Faulk does a great job of explaining base permaculture concepts and his ideas of proper implementation.  I don’t agree with everything anybody says but I find Faulk’s ideas to be appealing.

For The Love Of Land: Global Case Studies of Grazing in Nature’s Image

Just came in the mail today.  Bigger book than I expected at 470 pages.  My hope and understanding is this book gives real-world examples of grazers implementing holostic management.  I’m sure I’ll have more to say about it.

Now, when we get to the real post about budgeting your day and I talk about the time I spend reading, you’ll know specifically what I’m chewing my way through right now.  Just know that I read for a little bit in the morning, read when I’m not driving the carpool, read over lunch and often read for a little bit in the evening.  I have to read and it just has to fit in where it can.

What are you reading?  How do you find the time?

Farming and Total Recall

I know this is a chronicle of our efforts toward sustainability.  I blog here about farming issues.  Well, we’ll get to that.  I want to tell you about the new Total Recall.  It was so bad I’m going to rant about it on my farming blog.  I’ll bring this back around to farming in a little bit so just bear with me.

I haven’t read Phillip K. Dick’s version of the story.  (I did attempt Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep recently.)  Of course I saw the version that came out when I was a kid.  That version was also terrible but in a lovable sort of way plus I tend to like Verhoeven’s work.  I mean, if you want to go see it, by all means, go see it but go in knowing it’s Len Wiseman’s best effort to make a Michael Bay movie.  You’ll see 110 minutes of explosions, gunfire and rediculous technology with about 8 minutes of attempted, unsuccessful plot.  I mean, how the heck can you climb a ladder when you’re on a structure that is accelerating out of a gravity well?  But, without giving anything away, let’s look at the premise.  The earth has been reduced to two habitable regions; roughly Britain and Australia.  They are connected by an elevator.  Yes, an elevator…going through the core of the earth.  The rest of the world is a wasteland brought on by chemical warfare.  Then <SPOILER> our hero kisses the girl, shoots some people, some stuff blows up and they all live happily ever after.  Nevermind the fact that you’re transporting slaves 8,000 miles through the Earth every day to build robots instead of just building them where the slaves are.  Has no one studied basic economics?</Spoiler>

So back to chemical warfare.  Now, I’m sure they took certain liberties with PKD’s writing though, again, I haven’t read his work.  What if they had said, “Chemical Farming destroyed the world.”?  How awesome would that be?  I mean, on their map North and South America are totally uninhabitable.  Africa, gone.  Asia, poisoned and uninhabitable.  We’re not talking about Nuclear fallout like in On the Beach, we’re talking clouds of poison that somehow don’t come into the inhabited areas, though they are in the suburbs…  Anyway, it would be much more fun to retain Britain and Australia as the last habitable areas because permaculture activists preserved and maintained the soil fertility and improved the water cycle while the rest of the planet fell prey to the evil machinations of agricultural chemical companies (Mwa ha ha!) with or without the elevator through the core of the planet.

Anyway, don’t poison the planet with your chemicals.  Work to improve the hydrological cycle of your land, improve biodiversity and, as a consequence, increase soil fertility.  And if you have a hankering to see Total Recall, see the one about terraforming Mars instead of the one about the elevator.

A fence only a mother could love

Our fence is at end of life.  Well, our fence was at end of life 10 years ago.  Let’s not beat around the bush, it’s porous.  It’s overgrown, falling down, the posts are rotten.

With that in mind I’m cutting fence posts.  It just so happens I own 5 acres of mature hedge trees, a chainsaw and all the time in the world.  Well, 5 acres of hedge and a chainsaw, anyway.

Dad and I spent the day Sunday rebuilding the fence along the road but this is what it looked like before.  I have also included some pics of the glorious, unending hedge forest.

Extreme Makeover: Farm Edition

The old farm has seen better days.  Even the mailbox is broken.

The fences are in disrepair, the pond is nearly silted in, the pond dam is infested with minks, I have acres of Osage orange, honey locust and willow, the pastures have more ragweed and thistle than grass, the buildings are falling in, the well doesn’t work…I could go on.  Most of the issues I face are simply due to age.  Things get old and need to be replaced.  In my case, nearly everything needs to be replaced.  The good news is I catch a lot of sunshine and rain so building fertility shouldn’t be too difficult.

My family has owned this farm since the 1840s.  It is my turn to fight back the brush, tame the earth and hand it to the next generation more productive than when I received it.  You know, stewardship.  This is a job I volunteered for and accept willingly.  In fact, it is easy to make dramatic productivity improvements right now since all I have to do is open up the canopy to let the sun come in and manage rest and disturbance cycles.

Well, it’s not that easy. I put a lot of thought into which projects receive priority. I appreciate Geoff Lawton’s notion that I should put 30 hours of thought into an hour of work but I’m looking out my window at thousands of hours of thinking.

It is difficult, as Joel Salatin points out, to look at the landscape and ask it, “What do you want to do?” instead of, “What can I make you do?”  This hill is quite good at raising hedge trees.  Does that mean it would be a good place for an orchard?  It is a small hill sloping North, West and South with a spring in the SW corner just East of the White Oak.

Let me show you why this matters.  Here is a path the cows have carved on the west side of a hill between fallen limbs, hedge trees and multiflora rose.

I promise you the hill doesn’t want to be scarred this way.  I have to find a way to heal the scar.  I could hire a bulldozer to come in and remove all trees and stumps and sculpt the hill.  That would be a good use of my time.  However, it would leave the soil exposed just as the spring rains are coming in.  I think it is better to manually remove the trees, burning, chipping and piling them as I go, then build my temporary paddocks in a way that prevents the cows from beating paths like this one.  I want to use hooves as rolling pins.  Solar-powered, fertilizer-spreading,  rolling pins that replicate.

I will spend the rest of my life remodeling this farm.  Right now it’s all I can do to manage 20 acres.  Hopefully I’ll develop more skill at recognizing natural patterns so I can partner with, rather than fight, nature.  Wish me luck.

In the beginning…

In the beginning we were totally clueless living in suburbia.  It was bad.  We brought in the chickens 2 by 2, male and female.  There was much rejoicing in the home but it was totally illegal.  So we sold the house, bought the family farm and moved home.

Time passes….thousands of chickens …erm…pass…

Several years later we feel we are ready to really get started.  We have built a small business raising and selling pastured broilers (meat birds), pastured turkeys and pastured hogs.  We also have goats for home milk production and a couple of jersey heifers.

We have reached the point where we either have to start telling customers “No” or we have to grow.  300 broiler chicks arrive in two weeks.  200 layer chicks arrive in three weeks.  You can see what we have decided to do.