Saturday, March 1, 2014

Winter Eggs

The Eggmobile moved around to various paddocks and pastures during the 2013 summer, but it came to roost for the winter in the new High Tunnel.  Despite the ample days of below-zero temps, the chickens have thrived quite well in the tunnel.  In fact, on many sunny days Farmer Bob has had to open the vent window as it gets very warm in there.

Adaptions due to the extreme cold include picking eggs by noon and again just before sundown so they don't freeze.  Also, the waterer (above white/red) must be brought in every night or the water is one big ice chunk by morning.  Farmer Bob has added new bedding now and then which keeps things clean and fresh.  It really is a nice place to hang out.  I'm sure I'll be getting an invite to join him for morning coffee in the High Tunnel within a few weeks.  Looking forward to it....

July 2013 Tour

A few pics of guests learning about the farm.

It was a beautiful day to walk around the farm and learn all the goings on here at GrassStain Farm.
We shared a potluck lunch in the garage and let the kids enjoy the fresh air and run with the dogs.
We do so love to have guests come visit.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Big Event at GrassStain Farm!!

I don't know how to make this bigger to read so here's the details:
SFA-MN Festival of Farms
Saturday, July 13, 2013
Come to GrassStain Farm for a tour
and Potluck Dinner
10:30 - Tour
12:00 - Dinner
1:00 - Chicken Processing Demo
And then hang out time for great farmer networking.

You can also check out

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

2013 Garden

Perhaps you find it odd to not see or read anything about our garden.  To be honest, I've been a bit hesitant to divulge too much in that area due to .... time?  .... lack of interesting information? pictures?  Or maybe just plain embarrassment!

I may have mentioned this in previous years, but here it is again:  I am not an avid gardener.  Our main passionate, skilled green thumbs are Bob and Elizabeth, both of whom are not available.  Hence, I am by default the current gardener.  Not a particularly comforting thought for Bob; however, he is grateful for what he can get.

I do have a plan.  I am trying to establish permanent garden beds and walk ways.  Our bed size is quite large so I quartered it.  Because the very long winter robbed me of extra preparation time, I was only able to get one of those quarters into rows.  And as usual when trying to establish something new, I think I'm on a huge learning curve.
I recycled brown grocery sacks and topped them with our own compost.  Then took more dirt from the walkways to build up each row.  That was manual labor which also explains why I only got 1/4 of the garden started into rows.

The whole garden is planted and currently showing lots of weeds as well as veggie plants.  Just use your imagination for that picture.  A green imagination!

The Pasture Journey

This is how the pasture looks today (looking east).  That's all for now.  Just a photo update.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Pathetic Pasture

This is our 5th growing season here at GrassStain Farm, and its time to tackle the Northern Border.  Up til now we've had other priorities such as good fencing, developing the paddocks near the barn, establishing the broilers and layers, and so forth.  Hence, the pasture area along the north fence has looked the same, and frankly, its a little pathetic.  Its dry, hard ground growing some grass and weeds.

Above pic is facing east; below is facing west from same spot.

Here's the plan:  We have two cool season cover crop mixes coming any day now.
We'll seed #1 mix on the west half and #2 mix on the east half  and watch the results.
Pretty scientific of us, don't you think? 

We found a seed company that has a mix calculator on their website, and they will mix any size needed.  What that means to us is that we weren't too small.  Keith, one of the owners, told us the shipping cost would remain the same up to xxx lbs (I forgot exact amount) so I doubled our order.  Once we have seeded the above pastures, we'll mix the remaining and scatter it around other small areas of grazing -- mainly between the edge of trees and fence.  

How did I know what to order?  Good question with no great answer.  However, I'll pass on the process:  
From this past winter's conferences, I learned about cool season and warm seasons crops.
Also, I picked up the tidbit of 1M seeds/acre is good, but you can go higher to cover for loss from birds and other factors.   And, a mix of legumes, broadleaf, grass, and brassicas is good for a variety of leaf size, root size, etc, to add to good soil health. 
Therefore, I ordered a cool season mix adding up to about 1.5+M seeds/acre.  It's not a complex mix; only 4 different plants until we add the two mixes together.
We are excited to get something going and watch the results.

Another important nugget we picked up at a workshop:
One smart successful farmer said this, "We want to fail at several things every year. 
We just make the failures small."  

The fact that we are trying something new already says success.
Whether we have a good pasture or not remains to be seen.  
Oh, and in July we'll plant a warm season mix.

Eggmobile...the sequel.

To learn what the Eggmobile is, read the previous blog.  The early framework pics are there, too.  
Now, we'll see Bob's continued work and the final product!
There are two rows of nests which the chickens enter from the inside, and we access from these doors on the outside.  Picking eggs will be much easier and cleaner with this method.  In the pic, the bottom door is down; once complete the top door will be able to attach to roof.

C'mon In, my little chickies!.  
Here's the nests from the inside and some of the roosts.

Bob is lowering the ramp that allows the hens to go out for fresh air and exercise and just to grub around.
At night the girls head back in, and we'll put the door up to keep out predators.

And here's the final version:  

Its a nice yellow as that was the unused paint found in the basement. 
Hope the ladies like it. ;)
We'll move the hens in this weekend, pull the eggmobile out to a pasture where the cows have been, '
set up the poultry electric fence, and let them do their thing.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Pork on Pasture Party

Party?  Well, it was really a workshop, but party sounded cooler.  Bob and I spent the first sunny warm 60s day of the season standing outside learning how to raise hogs on open pasture.  Bob got a sunburned face.

These sows were put out in this pasture a few weeks ago to farrow (give birth).  There are 6 here and all but one have 9 or 10 healthy, cute little pigs. (The last has probably farrowed by now.) The sows each choose a hut when its almost time and create their own nest inside.  We were told its good to have one more hut than sow as they seem to like a choice.  

Can you see the little piggie coming over from the hut.  When we arrived, all the pigs ran behind the hut.  After about 15 minutes or more, mama layed down, and they came running to her grunts.  Time for lunch!

This pen was where the sows were over the winter.  Only one sow remains here; she's the bottom of the pecking order and now has the place to herself and her litter.  The huts are made of steel and stack nicely for storing when not being used.  
We enjoyed the workshop and gained much knowledge about hogs.  However, this does not mean we're going to start a farrowing operation.  Never say never, but for now we hope to raise some butcher hogs for our own dining pleasure.
Although it is very hard to find weaned 40# pigs which creates quite a niche market.  
Just sayin'

Monday, April 29, 2013

What is an Eggmobile?

This is a common question these days.  Why?  It's what Bob is building in front of the shop.  We've been reading about eggmobiles in a Joel Salatin book (where else!) and looking at the Chicken Coops by Judy Pangman book and are now ready to launch our own.

Bob is a skilled builder and is greatly enjoying this project.  He didn't choose one particular pattern but rather gathered ideas from several plans and actual ones seen on you-tube to create his own.  It was a real bonus to find an inexpensive chassis from a friend on which to mount it.

Here's how it works:  The layer chickens will be housed inside where they will roost at night and lay their eggs in nests.  During the day we open a small door and set out a ladder/ramp for the chickens to go outside to peck and grub and get fresh air and sunshine and exercise. At night they naturally head into the eggmobile for protection, and we shut the door to keep out predators.  All that makes for healthy, happy chickens.

The coop has good ventilation on top plus a chicken-wire floor so all droppings go to the ground.  It will go into a pasture area after the cows  have grazed so they have cowpies to scratch through for insects, thereby spreading out the rich manure.  After several days, we move it to a new area following where the cows have been.  Its just beneficial all the way around.

More pictures to come once its completed,

Friday, November 16, 2012

 Check it out at