Thursday, March 29, 2012

Plantin' taters

We planted potatoes last week! This was the earliest we have ever planted them, and it was a big accomplishment. Having the potatoes in the ground early gives them more time to grow into big taters, and we'll probably have "new potatoes" earlier in the summer. Another advantage is that it gives the plants time to grow. Potato beetles tend to come out in June. If the plants grow longer they will be stronger and healthier before the beetles attack them. 

This year, planting was a group effort. Farmer John's Mom and Dad picked up the seed potatoes in Moundsville, they also spent an afternoon cutting them up. A potato usually has several eyes, and you really only need to plant one. Cutting them up stretches the seed potatoes so you can plant more. And after an incident with Beast the cat, Farmer John's Dad also donated some blood meal for fertilizer. 

Farmer John had plowed the gardens last weekend. He went over them with the tiller before we planted. Then he used the hand plow to make rows. 

Next, his Mom and I set the seed potatoes in the rows - about 6 inches apart. Potatoes aren't planted very deep, because they like to grow in hills. Farmer John followed behind us and hoed the soil into a mound over the seed potatoes. We'll do this a few more times this spring to make the hills bigger. 

Hopefully we'll have plenty of Yukon Gold potatoes to eat with our Highland Beef, and share with our families and friends. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Making choices

It started with a deer…and a chicken.

I had started down the slippery slope from decade-long vegetarian to semi-regular meat eater.

I gave up Beef-A-Roo sandwiches and all things meat sometime in high school. While it was a hassle then, especially for my family, it quickly became a way of life. In northern Minnesota I was offered a lot of salads when I told folks I didn't eat meat. But, living with two other vegetarians made life a lot easier. I fit right in when it came time for four years in an extremely veggie-friendly college community. That's where I got my first exposure to local foods- specifically local meat. Our college had a room dedicated to cleaning wild game for Pete's sake!

That college community is also where I met Farmer John. He introduced me to venison. After a trip home for hunting season (aka Thanksgiving) he came back with his bounty and cooked up some venison fajitas. The meat was organic, humanely raised, humanely killed and well…tasty. But, that was that, one meaty meal -not a change in lifestyle

Then we moved to the farm and got ourselves some chickens. We also got ourselves a Husky, who was prone to killing chickens. When your neighbors give you a sack of garden-fresh tomatoes and squash – you eat it, right? Well, when our dog gave us a fresh-killed chicken, we ate it.

Since then I’ve had to make choices about what I eat. I continue to stick to a primarily vegetarian diet, especially when not on the farm. However, when I know where and how the animal was raised, or the farmer that raised it, I’ll happily dig in.

Recently one of those big “shaggy coos” in the backyard became dinner. At first, this was just weird – knowing exactly which cow I was eating. Now I feel better about it. Our cows have a purpose, and they live a very good life in preparation of serving the purpose – feeding us and our customers. Instead of feeling weird each time I sit down for a beef-based dinner I feel satisfied. There is an huge sense of satisfaction at eating anything we've raised - whether it's broccoli or brisket. I'm proud of the hard work that went into getting dinner to the table, and I'm going to enjoy it. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Local Food Round Table

Hey local folks - are you going to this? Farmer John and I will be there! Get there early because local farmers will have tables set up with their information. It's a great chance to chat with farmers and producers in the area. 

If you haven't taken a look yet, here's the Grow Local Go Local site. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Happy Birthday Blog

The blog turns 1 today. Aww...isn't it cute? Maybe we'll feed it some cake tonight. 

But, seriously, thanks for reading and keeping up with us over the past year. It's been fun to document livestock, gardens, construction, bridges, wells and the rest of life on the farm. 

Farmer John and I talked about big life plans - which really means big farm plans - last week. We have a list of projects for the coming year. We hope you'll keep reading as we continue our adventure in farming. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring "peepers"

It must be Spring! We brought 30 chicks to the farm on Monday. 

After school on Monday, Farmer John and I made a stop at the feed store to pick up our chicks. (As a side note, the guys were busy installing a new door because the other one had been broken during a robbery over the weekend. It's the third time in a year that our feed store has been robbed. That just makes me mad.)

We put the chicks in the back seat and headed to the farm. 

We picked out 20 Barred Rocks, which lay brown eggs and 10 Araucanas, which are the ones that lay blue eggs. We may try some other breeds later in the year, but will have to start them after this bunch is big enough to be moved to the growing pens.   

We finally are using our brooder - it only took a year! But, it's turning out to be a perfect place for the chicks. They've been hanging out under the heater, then eating lots of chick starter, then sleeping.  

So far everyone is healthy and peeping away, they'll be fun to watch as they grow up this Spring. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Chickens on pasture

We keep our chickens near the house for the winter. This is for several reasons: it's easier to care for them when they are nearby, we can get electricity to the coop for a light and to heat the water bowl, and they spend the winter fertilizing the garden. 

Once the grass greens-up, we move them out of the dirt and on to fresh pasture. That's what we did this weekend. 

First we take down the electro-net fence.  Then Farmer John hooks the coop to the tractor using a chain. Next he drags the whole coop to it's new spot. We set up the fence in the new spot, and let the girls out of their coop. 

Sometimes the chickens are hesitant to explore their new pasture. On Sunday, everyone poured out of the coop. They must have been so excited to see that green grass. 

I have to imagine that after spending the winter in the coop and on dirt, being able to scratch in the grass and eat bugs, made the chickens very happy. And Farmer John and I were happy to watch them peck around for a while. The only thing that would have made us happier would have been if Farmhand Rich was here with his rat shooting skills. There were several that scampered off as soon as the coop moved away from it's winter spot. Ick!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Gas Pipeline Work Space - part 2

The work space is still in use for the gas pipeline. When we negotiated the contract we set the base-price for   initial use of the space, plus two weeks of work. The land-man we were dealing with said they only needed this space for "a couple weeks" and that it would be a "very short process". That is why we said they could use the space for two weeks. 

We weren't as concerned with what they would be doing as how long we'd have to look at it. As I've mentioned, we are enjoying sunsets on the back porch now that the weather is warmer. Looking at the sunset also involves looking at the heavy equipment in the hayfield. Not the bucolic view I'm used to. 

So,  now we're going on week 7 of work in the hayfield. This is annoying, except that we're still getting paid. Farmer John wisely added a stipulation to the contract. For every week past two weeks they are in the work space, we get another check. 

Those checks are making the heavy equipment a lot easier to look at! 

And those checks are turning into our "Farmer's Vacation" fund. So, I sit on the back porch and dream about where we should go. 



Do you have any suggestions? We want to go on a good vacation, or two, or three...! It will just depend how long those pipeliners camp out in the hayfield. We're just really hoping they're gone by the time we have to cut the hay!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Happy Birthday Sam!

I'm interrupting the scheduled post to wish our farm's IT Guy a Happy Birthday!!

We hope you have a fantastic birthday Sam, filled with lots of good food! In case you don't get to eat a calzone that's bigger than your head, we'll get you one on your next visit. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Gas Pipeline Work Space - part 1

Prepare yourself, the next two posts will be heavy on the photos. 

After we'd rented out some of the land for a gas pipeline, we were approached by the same company about renting out a temporary work-space. They needed space in our hayfield to work on running the pipeline under the creek. 

Farmer John and I worked with the pipeline company to come up with a contract that made everyone - but especially us - happy. We were concerned with what they would be doing and for how long they would be doing it. We look out on this hayfield from the house, as well as use the hay to feed the cattle. 

One of the biggest requirements was that the area they use be "matted". The mats are large wood planks that fit together to create a temporary road. Any vehicles or equipment that travels in the hayfield have to stay on the mats, so as not to tear up the hay and topsoil.

Above is the first sighting of a semi-truck in the hayfield. It was a strange sight. Below is Farmer John testing out the mats, they turned out to be a good road for the four-wheeler also.

At the very end of the hayfield, they built a temporary bridge across the creek. Yes, the pipeliners had a bridge before we did.

Here's the view from the far end of the field back to the house and barn.

They are using the space to build pipeline. Then the pipeline will get pulled under the creek when they are done assembling and drilling.

It's been interesting to watch this whole process happen in our backyard, but I for one won't miss them when they are gone. Check back tomorrow for more photos of heavy equipment in the hayfield.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Home again, home again

Well, I'm home again after a WONDERFUL trip to San Francisco. The weather was great, the training for work was very informative, the food was delicious, and the time with my family was priceless. I feel very lucky that I had the opportunity to go on this trip. 

The one photo I will share is from our evening at the Ferry Building. I really enjoyed getting to stroll around and look at all the specialty food shops. We stopped in one market and I went to check out the meat counter.  I'd been checking what shops charged for grass-fed beef. I wasn't shocked by the beef prices at the Ferry Building but, then I got to the end of the counter and laughed out loud at the price of venison! I know a bunch of folks in West Virginia that have a freezer full of venison - none of which they paid $40 for! Farmer John and I are talking about a new business plan for the farm - shoot as many deer as possible and drive them out to San Francisco. Not exactly local food though. 

Farmer John wants you to know that what is called "Fillet" in San Francisco is referred to as "backstrap" in West Virginia. Ha!

Yesterday the weather was lovely. We spent some time just puttering around the farm. Farmer John hooked up the blade to the tractor and graded out the gravel driveway. I picked up a winter's worth of yard debris, brushed Badger, and gave the chickens some new nesting-box hay. I also cleaned up eggs - the gals were busy while I was away. 

We ended the evening with a glass of wine and a beautiful sunset on the back porch. Spring is on it's way, which means many more porch sunsets to come. We can't wait!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Behind the scenes

In case you were wondering, this is what it looks like when I blog.

Not all the time – just on cozy Sunday mornings.

Hope you and yours are having a relaxing Sunday. I’m on my way to San Francisco today for a training for work and some quality time with my California family. I hear it’s starting to look like Spring out there and I can’t wait to see the flowers and produce. Farmer John will be keeping the farm under control for the week. Godspeed Farmer John!

Thursday, March 1, 2012


That new driving bridge of ours?  It's strong. 

Our friend Mick has been working on the new gravel driveway. He's brought his backhoe, bulldozer and dump-trucks across the bridge. It doesn't even wiggle.
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