Thursday, December 29, 2011

Warm Weather means Work!

Usually we are busy shoveling/plowing snow at this time of year, however this winter the ground is still brown and the roads completely clear of any white stuff. Instead of trudging through a foot or two of snow for chores and then cuddling inside with the farm books and family games, we are seeing lots of projects getting done. Bob is thrilled with how much work he has done this week while home on vacation from his full-time job.

The Grainery Cabin project is launched! After talking about this for a few years and collecting free windows (think recycle!), the cabin received its first phase face-lift. On Monday, Dec. 26th, it was so warm and sunny that Bob figured it was a good day to get two windows installed. The dark, claustrophobic inside was transformed to visions of all sorts of cozy, rustic possibilities. I'm thinking (hoping) much could be done before my skilled, strong husband is busy with the planting season. Then I can do the cleaning, painting kind of work. He's the heavy; I'm the light-weight.
Frankly, we aren't exactly sure what the goal is for the Grainery other than a rustic cabin retreat. Crazy ideas include compost toilet? Solar hand sink? Electricity for fan, light, radio? Comfy chairs for reading and writing. Does it pique your interest?

So, that was Monday. Then Tuesday Bob butchered his first-ever lamb. This guy was a May lamb grown to about 50 or 60#. Bob spent the night before on you-tube watching experienced guys, then used our stainless steel table and other equipment from the summer chicken project, the meat grinder, and made quick and easy work of it. Well, he wouldn't say it was quick, but I definitely would say he made it look easy. I am highly impressed. Two more to go. . .

Wednesday Bob started taking out a kitchen cupboard to make room for a dishwasher. What a guy! This isn't exactly a farm project, but it sure makes this farmwife happy. I already unloaded my first batch of clean dishes today. After finishing that, Bob headed outside to clean out the barn and haul out manure piles. The warm weather means no frozen manure mounds building up hence much fewer spring/summer days spent hauling said piles out to the field. We could get used to this kind of climate.

Not sure what Friday holds, but I'm sure Bob has a list. He LOVES being on his own farm working with his own cows, sheep, chickens, etc. It is very satisfying work for him. One day he'll come home full time but until then he also enjoys his full-time job with great guys to work along side, and still growing good, wholesome food for local customers.

After writing all that, sorta makes me feel like a slacker. Hmmm. Maybe I'll go make a delicious, nutritious, home-grown supper for that hard-working man of mine.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

This is how the cows enjoyed todays sunny, warm, unusual Christmas day weather.

Merry Christmas from GrassStain Farm

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Trees on my mind.

Trees are such a thing of beauty. And of service, too. Full of variety, color, shape, smell, and texture. At GrassStain Farm they add much to the look of our farm in all the seasons. Right now the evergreens bordering the south slow the wind a little. Last year they kept out lots of snow (not an issue yet this winter), and small animals and birds find their shelter among the branches.

In the summer our trees add protection from the sun and rainstorms when needed. In the Fall some of the trees provide fruit and leaves for compost to nourish the ground. Finally, let us not forget to mention oxygen pouring out all year round.

I do not understand why people continue to rip out rows of trees to add a few more acres to their large fields. Short-term economics is my guess. On paper those few more acres can return $XX to make that bottom line look better. But I think those dollars come at a high price if one would consider the long-term effect on the environment, the atmosphere, and even the landscape.

We will be ordering new trees soon at the Conservation Office to be planted in the Spring. Its good to be planting a few new trees every year to replace the old ones or wind-damaged ones that we lose. Remember the tree guy who came out last June and told me the plum trees are on their way out? We'll be replacing those also, not with plums but maybe more apple trees. The orchard already has two new cherry bushes and a growing raspberry patch.

And so I have trees on my mind. Today I can drink my tea and admire them out the window, but next summer I will be sitting among the trees, listening to the leaves rustle, the birds chirp, and drinking in the fresh oxygen. Aaah. Now that's medicine for the soul; a real stress-reliever.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sustainable Farmer Joel Salatin

We had the privilege of hearing Joel Salatin speak a few weeks ago. What a Farmer! We have almost all of his books in which he is not only knowledgeable and successful with farming methods but also witty and clear in how he passes it on to us. We love his books and his speaking.

As usual, we came away from this farm conference with a list of inspired ideas to talk through. One of the top new thoughts was checking into a small sawmill to utilize all the wood available around here (so much is just burned up!). Its been fun to search the internet and throw out the topic for conversation. One party came back to my husband a few days later and asked, "Does she know how dangerous they are?!"

Hmmm. Now that's food for thought. Which is exactly why I spend many weeks just collecting facts and whatnot before even deciding if its a good idea or not. Haven't crossed the sawmill off the list, but neither is it at the top anymore.

Another farm option that is not new but for some reason has been simmering on the back burner too long is hogs. We had two last year but have not replaced them. I think that may very well happen in 2012. More than two and they will be busy rooting around in the woods cleaning up the forest floor and aerating the soil as they grub for food. Perhaps what was lacking was a clear vision of where and why. Joel gave us the correct vision and the right time.

We sold Bubba the ram and two bred ewes. Remaining is two original bred ewes and 4 spring lambs. Bob's new adventure is to butcher the lambs himself. I suppose we'll do one at a time with a small crew of smart friends. There is so much help available in both print and people. Plus, did you know you can learn how to butcher on you-tube? All that along with our experience and equipment from the broiler chickens, I think Bob will do a great job.

Speaking of the broiler chickens and all that....we processed the few turkeys that the summer fox did not get. One would think that if the chicken thing went nice and smooth, the turkey thing couldn't be too hard? Right? WRONG! Wow. They are definitely a bird of a different feather. A few facts that made it a once-in-a-lifetime adventure not to be repeated: way bigger, heavier, outdoor temps colder, waterhose freezing, pin feathers unremoveable, bags too small, etc. The end result was a bird that didn't look very nice -- not like the broiler chickens. So we are eating them ourselves because that end result is still the same: DELICIOUS! Lots of good dark meat as well as white. Just roast it, take the skin off and slice and its the same great flavor one expects from a free range heirloom turkey.