Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Not Santa

After our house became filled with smoke on Saturday night, we decided it was time to clean the chimney. John used a wire chimney brush to clean out some of the gunk that had built up since the last cleaning. Then we emptied the stovepipes. Finally I cleared out all the ashes from the stove. And although it was a sunny morning, it was one of the coldest we've had so far. It wasn't the best day to let the fire go out, but it was necessary. Since then we've been very cozy near the woodstove and the house has been smoke free. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Constructing the High Tunnel - Part #2 (aka the correct video)


Sorry about the video mix-up yesterday. I would have fixed it sooner, but it was raining so our internet didn't work. If only we still had Patrik around to keep us in line! 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Constructing the High Tunnel - Part #1

Farmer John and the Tajik Goat Herder have been hard at work on the high tunnel. Their first step was to unload all the pieces from the delivery truck. Everything was unloaded in a wide spot in the road across from the farm. 

Next, they had to figure out how to get these long pieces across the creek. The poles were much too long for the truck, so they strapped them to the four-wheeler and pretended they were knights in a jousting match.

Next Farmer John had to figure out where the high tunnel would be. He measured out a patch near the other gardens and tilled the soil. He decided to till this with the tractor because it will be hard to get the tractor inside once the structure is built. We will probably use walk-behind tillers when we plant inside the tunnel. 

These are the poles that had to be driven into the ground to anchor the structure. We had a lot of help to install these. It takes a combination of a stake-driver and a sledge-hammer to sink them 5 feet into the ground. After driving 38  poles there were a few sore muscles, a couple blisters, and one broken 8 pound sledge hammer. 

The next step was putting up the arches. So far, this has been the most satisfying part of the project. 

After the arches were in place, the cross-braces had to be attached. This part was more of a challenge because the guys had to be on ladders. We may need to borrow or buy a much taller ladder soon. There are purlins which run the length of the ridge of the gable, which is about 16 feet high. 

Farmer John is waiting on the re-shipment of a few pieces. He'll continue construction once they arrive. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

International Harvester Farmall Super C

I've undertaken a project to restore our Farmall Super C. In the time Mollie and I have lived here this tractor has been  a lawn ornament collecting rust and weeds. But I've got big plans to turn it into a working tractor again  for cultivating, planting, and plowing my vegetable gardens.

The Super C was purchased used by my grandfather in the mid 1950's. It significantly changed the way farm-work was done. Before the Farmall all the work was done around the farm by the horses, Fred and Blanche. They were a big part of my father's childhood. He loved Fred. He didn't always have nice things to say about Blanche who enjoyed biting him. With a tractor they were able to use a square baler (all the hay was put in loose with horses) and significantly increase their corn acreage on neighboring farms which they used to raise hogs and cattle.

My grandfather always operated the Farmall. It could get pretty dangerous trying to operate a tricycle-front-end tractor on the hillsides of West Virginia. When he passed away in 1990 my father did not wait to long to go buy a Massey Ferguson with a wide front end and lower center of gravity. So we parked the Farmall and haven't used it much since.

Farmall Super C's were great crop tractors. I am now farming more vegetables and crops so it makes sense to get the old gal running and productive again. But that's not the only reason for restoring the C, it gives me a connection to my father, grandfather, and the the farm's past which is pretty priceless.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Before + After #3

Before: Matching overalls (because we're farm dorks)

                After: Muddy matching overalls (because we pulled up all the black plastic mulch)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Before + After #2

Before: Amish Pie Pumpkin

After: Pie for an early Thanksgiving celebration

We have a few more of these pumpkins stored in the cellar. What is your favorite way to use pumpkin?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Friday, November 8, 2013

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Clyde strikes again

Clyde has been finding his way out of the fence a lot recently. In truth, he doesn't find his way out, he MAKES a way out. Using his horns he rips big gaps in the fence, and then strolls right through. We've found him in the yard almost every day for the past week. Farmer John and The Tajik Goat Herder have some plans to work on fence repairs soon. Clyde has always been relentless in his search for green grass, so I'm sure it won't be the last time we see him snacking outside the fence. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Spreading Lime

Today's post by Farmer John

I've heard raising cattle and other ruminants referred to as "grass farming". Growing good grass should be your focus. The goal is to have the healthiest and most nutritious forage possible. The cattle simply harvest your crop for you. There is a lot to learn about growing healthy stands of grass, but it all starts with the soil. Our soil is nutrient rich, but too little of these nutrients can be used by the grasses because the soil is too acidic in our region. The only reasonable way to correct the acid soil (4.0) to a good pH (6.0) is by adding lime.

We recently enrolled in a lime cost-share program through our local conservation district. They will come to your farm, spread the lime, and pay a 50% reimbursement on the cost. Sounds like a pretty great deal to me.

The first step is taking soil samples from around the pasture to find out the exact soil deficiencies. We sent these samples to WVU and they made recommendations on how much lime to add to the pastures. We had very low pH so they recommended 3 tons per acre.

Next the good folks from the conservation district show up with the lime and equipment to spread it. We had almost 63 tons of lime spread onto our fields. This covered about half of our pasture acreage. We will have the rest of the acreage completed later.

After the lime is spread, it will take about a year for it to settle into the soil and neutralize the acidity. The result will hopefully be more grass growth, bigger gains on the cattle, and more profit from the beef. We hope it all works as planned.

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