Tuesday, April 20, 2010

If a tree falls in the woods.....

and no one is there, does it make a noise?

This one sure must have.

A few weeks ago while I was on a walk, I noticed this tree that is along side the path to the stream had "moved". As it turns out, the tree--a HUGE oak tree--had slid down the side of the embankment, roots and all. Because the roots are still in-tact, the tree is still alive and the buds have all come out. The tree is so big that Chris doesn't know how he will get rid of it. Right now, it's not in the way, although the embankment is a bit open and some of the ground has shifted. Further down the path, there is a dead tree that is leaning over the path. That tree will probably come down at some point--the only thing that is keeping it from falling are several smaller trees that are unwillingly supporting it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

New Farm Equipment

Every year we add an arsenal of new equipment to make the hard jobs easier, the heavy jobs lighter and the inefficient jobs more efficient.

Here you can see our new electronic leaf.  This little apparatus helps insure that we can sucessfully propagate herbs and plants for our bedding plant business.
When this leaf dries off it lifts up and turns on these misters.
The misters are different from the sprinklers that we have in both greenhouses.  They have a very fine spray intended to keep the leaves moist, rather than soaking the soil.  Below you can see the cuttings that we have taken.  These cuttings are the vegetative (non-woody)tip of the plant that is stripped of it's lower leaves and planted into soil.  Many greenhouses operations use a rooting hormone, but we have not found such a thing that is certified organic (though I have heard that a willow bark tea has small amounts of the hormone necessary).  The cuttings are planted into 128 cell trays (128 plants per tray) and the trays are placed on the heated floor of our greenhouse.  The floor is at a consistent 72 degrees.  We have had great sucess with this new system....much better than the 10%-50% sucess rates in years past using a humid germination chamber.
We have improved our radiant floor heating with the oil fired boiler pictured below. Oil heats more efficiently than the older propane system we had last year, and we hope to see a reduction in fuel usage this year.
The water is heated to about 180 degrees before it is pumped out into the tubing which runs every two inches throughout the entire greenhouse. As the water heats the root zone of the plants that are growing on the floor, it cools off, and is pumped back into the boiler to be reheated.
This little contraption below is our much anticipated heat exchanger that warms the water coming out of the watering hose to a lovely 70 degrees.  The plants no longer have to  endure 50 degree water chilling them to their roots. The warm water just makes them that much happier!!!!
Here is our new offset Kubota cultivating tractor.  Now with three tractors that fit into our narrow vegetable field system, we can cultivate, seed, and transplant all at the same time. We have a 1950's era Cub cultivating tractor which only cultivates, we also have a John Deere that seeds, transplants, and cultivates. Alot of time on the farm is spent changing equipment on the tractors. With only one tractor that seeds and cultivates, we were always one break down away from being without an important tool. With a second high clearance cultivating tractor that has a three point hitch we can spread out these important tasks and do them simultaniously.  
Below is the new/used 14' disc harrow. This implement helps in the tillage process by cutting and leveling the rough plowed ground, and brings us one step closer to a smooth planting surface.

Above and below you can see our new box scraper. Hooked up to the three point hitch of our tractor, this heavy duty two-way steel blade with cutting teeth allows us to do basic road maintenance and barn yard clean up. We have declared war on the potholes that destroy our trucks and tractors on a daily basis.
So there you have it...a sampling of the equipment that will be hard at work here in 2010!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Stocking the Stream

Today, the State En Con truck came and they stocked the stream with small and medium size trout. This is an annual event and luckily this year we got a heads up from a friend so we able to watch it. It takes less than 10 minutes and they drop in several dozen fish. There's quite a caravan of people that follow the truck as they make their stops. There was a woman and man fishing when the truck arrived. They thought they hit the jackpot when the fish were dropped in!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Katy with a "y"

I'm Chris' sister, Katy and I'll be posting on the blog periodically. Lucy (my dog) and I walk most mornings and evenings through the fields, so I will be posting lots of pictures of life on the farm. I'm particularly excited this year because the fields surrounding my house are being put into vegetable production for the first time, thanks to the underground irrigation that Chris and Matt installed last year. Please be patient with me as I learn to upload pics and blog! Katy

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Making Posts

This is a photo of Day 2 of what will be 4 days of log milling here on our Farm. This winter/spring project is intended to provide the materials for several fencing jobs this coming season.

A local builder with a portable Woodmizer saw mill, Jeff Peister, has come to the farm to saw up some trees we have logged. Locust was logged for use as posts because of its longevtiy and toughness, and Oak was logged for the planks. 

 After the log is lifted (with the help of our tractor) onto the cutting platform, the bark is removed with the first cuts.
After each cut the log is rolled and cut again.  The resulting wood is called slab wood, we  think it could make a nice fence for our pig pen.....Connely, who just turned 6, will undoubtedly dream up all sorts of great building projects for these rejected slabs.          
After the bark is removed the locust posts are cut...depending upon the size of the heartwood, we get 2, 4, or more 3 x 3 inch posts.
We plan on using these posts to fence in our 25 acre pasture up on route 217.  The pasture will be for the cows as well as the horses.
Below you can see the pile of posts growing...in front of the 3 x 3 posts are 1 x 1 oak "stickers".  The stickers are used to space out the posts so that they dry evenly and do not warp.
The next milling session will be to create more of the oak boards that you can see below.  They will be the top line of the fence.
We have cut 375 locust posts, they will support about 3/4's of a mile of fencing around the open portions of the field.  The remaining fence line will be high tensile going through tree lines surrounding the field. 

Friday, April 9, 2010

New Construction

We are rested and ready for the growing season and hopefully with a little help, I can get back into a regular "blogging" of all that is going on here...there is so much going on, that it is hard to know where to start.

Soooo...we will start with our new barn.

After having spent a good part of the 2009 season trying to sell our herd of cows, we had a change of heart.
We did not want to split the herd, and we wanted them to end up at the right place, so...we came full circle and decided not to sell.
You may wonder why we wanted to sell them in the first place???

We are vegetable farmers first and foremost. The cows help us to manage the land that is not suitable for vegetable production, and they are beautiful to look at grazing the verdant pastures at sunset; but when they get out of their pastures and are running over neghbors heirloom lawn balls, or tramping through the neighbors alfalfa field in the middle of our busiest time of year...well, Chris was ready to throw in the towel.."What are we doing this for?", "Do we even make any money on this beef operation?" "Wouldn't it be nice to only grow vegetables. imagine how much better we would be at it if that was really all that we did." These are all words straight from my husbands mouth, during the height of the season

The answers to many of the questions left little reason to keep them, no they do not make us a lot of money, yes, it would be nice to focus on only the vegetable production, but the answer to"What we are doing this for?" brought us slowly to the realization that we could not let them go.

Diversity is good for land, for the economy, for our diets.

Our farm is a diverse landscape of hills, lowlands, water ways, gravel and trees. Keeping this diversity in balance is our job.

Our farm business is heavily slanted toward vegetable production (albeit mixed vegetables) and selling beef and plants supports the vegetable operation while giving us added income.

We like to eat meat that has been raised here on our farm. As a former vegetarian, I only started eating meat when we began raising it.

And so the beef herd stays, in their new barn with their automatic waterer and when the grass greens up they will wander up the hill to graze to their hearts content.
The new barn is the beginning of a long term vision of more efficient and permanent systems. With better infrastructure and sytems we look forward to many more years of certified organic grassfed beef here on our farm.!!!!