Friday, June 26, 2009

Farm Friday

This week has been much slower than previous weeks, due to the fact that we have finished all of our planting. Now we are simply keeping everything watered and weeded. Our green beans are beginning to produce, but otherwise there has been nothing of note.

Have a great weekend,

Friday, June 19, 2009

Farm Friday

I'm happy to be blogging tonight after surviving the hottest week so far this year; the daytime temperatures this week were all in the mid-90s.  With that said, the broiler chicks are very comfortable, and we're not having any more trouble with wet soil.  In fact, I set up our drip irrigation system today.

Our garden consists of 8 60' rows that are 4 feet wide, with 2' paths in between.  Drip irrigation makes watering the garden as simple as filling up a barrel.  We have a 55 gallon barrel, uphill from our garden, which is fitted with a pipe, valve, and filter.  Two header lines run out of the filter and along one side of the garden.  At each bed the header is fitted with one or two 'T' fittings which allow us to connect the driplines.  The driplines themselves are basically just hoses with holes in them, but they are designed to flow evenly and resist clogging.  The lines run the length of the bed and are tied off at the ends.  To water the garden we simply fill the barrel with water and open the valve, and we can calculate how much water we wish to apply.

In the pasture, we have planted popcorn and Southern peas inside a goat-resistant fence (I've learned not to say goat-proof, it's an oxymoron).  We also have some buckwheat planted in the hoophouse as a cover crop and green manure.

This isn't exactly farm-related, but I noticed what seems to be a geological phenomenon in one of our ditches.  This ditch is cut down to the stone underneath, which is sedimentary and really soft.  Normally, the layers run horizontally, but as I was walking by today I noticed a section that is positioned vertically.  I don't see an explanation, because there is horizontal layering on either side, but it's interesting. The first picture shows normal layers, and the second is an overhead shot of the vertical layers.

Tomorrow I'll be selling at the farmers' market for Birdsong Community Farm, so stop by if any of you are passing through. =)

Have a great weekend,


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

$ 4 txting

As I drove home tonight from a long day of hard, sweaty work in the fields, I was listening to NPR news, as is my wont.  I know that it's liberal, but there isn't any music on the radio fit to listen to. The van was just beginning to cool down to a reasonable 90 degrees when I heard the story: a 15 year old girl has won $50,000 in the national texting championship.  Now, I'm so far behind the technological curve that I can't even see the curve, so it is needless to say that I found it surprising that a championship exists for pressing phone buttons.   

I get paid well for the work I put in, but I'm afraid I would have to work for quite some time before I earned 50 grand.  When I first heard the story, I thought that perhaps I should take up texting as my new career.  Then I remembered that I'm 18 and have only sent 5 text messages before, so I decided that we need to prevent discretion against luddites and create a new championship- one that I would have a chance at. 


I reveal here, for the first time ever, my plans for the National Tomato Planting Contest.  I'm still looking for a sponsor to provide the $50K prize, but this contest could be BIG.  Televised, even.  The event would take place next spring, at select farms in our area, and would involve a few rounds of planting tomato transplants.  The contestants must dig the holes, throw in some compost and lime, plant the tomatoes, and water them.  Then, we wait a few weeks to check survivability, compare the survival rate and times, and narrow down the contestants with more rounds until there is a winner.  After it's all over, the farmers provide our community with lots of tomatoes. Not only do we have fun wasting money and competing, but after it's over there is a useful result!   

Friday, June 12, 2009

Farm Friday

This week was a productive one here at the farm, with enough dry weather to get our work done and enough rain to help our seeds to germinate. Everything has been planted now, so we're (very optimistically) looking forward to some summer lettuce, corn, green beans, tomatoes, winter squash, melons, summer squash, cucumbers, peppers, okra, eggplant, popcorn, and black-eyed peas.

My second round of broiler chicks arrived this morning and have settled happily into the brooder.

They can be quite the gluttons 8)

I thought I would add a little education to this post, so I won't be offended if you fall asleep. A large part of the difficulty in creating new pasture is a natural process called ecological succession. Simply put, when land is abandoned, it reverts to it's natural state. Where we live, the land tries to revert to forest; all of this area was solid forest at one time. Thus, in order to create pasture we must move succession backwards, which is always time consuming. Our pasture was planted to crops at one time, then around 30 years ago it was in pasture. It was then abandoned and followed the normal succession for this area: grass>leafy weeds>woody brush>trees. All of these stages can be seen on our land, and even where we have grass there are still some weeds- but the sheep will take care of those.

Grass (a very nice patch, of course:)

Leafy Weeds

Woody Brush

The picture below is a good example of what our farm is like right now. You can see that the woody brush begins as soon as our garden ends; we are still very much in a pioneer stage of taming the land and making it useful. We plan on expanding the garden into that brushy area, which was part of the woods last fall.
I also wanted to mention a documentary (which we have been looking forward to for quite some time) called Food, Inc. The movie includes interviews and commentaries with real-food heroes like Joel Salatin, Michael Pollan, and Eric Schlosser, and sets out to reveal the truth about our industrial food system. I look forward to seeing how widespread a reception it gets, as it brings a message which needs to be spread. It has now been released, unfortunately only in a few large cities. Tell everyone whom you know that eats!
Have a great weekend,

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Goodbye Goats

Our experience with goats here at Windy Creek Farm started before we even lived on this land. We used our brush goats to clear the pasture in order to clear it for planting to grass (and they do love brush), and to keep it clear as the grass grew. Fortunately Unfortunately, it is time for them to go. They have been causing problems and the pasture doesn't really need them anymore. It's not that I have a problem with goats in general, but lately my goats and I just haven't been able to get along.

The goats wander the whole pasture, including the areas where I move the chicken pens. Goats absolutely love chicken feed. This makes chores difficult, because as soon as I set a bucket down there are at least three goat heads stuck into it. They're even rude enough to stick their heads into the buckets while I'm carrying them. Now, that just gets my goat.

Besides that, they are rough on the chicken pens. Goats get itchy, and they love to rub against the chicken wire on the walls of the pens. As a result, the chicken wire often stretches and comes loose, making repairs necessary. Direct assaults have taken place as well; just a few days ago, the goats broke into the hen pen and ate the feed. The chickens got out, of course, and half of them were killed or eaten by an as yet unknown predator. This dropped my egg production from 12 to 4 per day.

Abigail, whom we bottlefed, was terribly spoiled as a child, and she shows it. She should have been named Nellie. She's small enough to jump out of the fence, and just today she found the garden delightful. She nibbled, more or less destructively, on the beans, corn, and lettuce. I'm sure that she will enjoy her new home at Pa Paw's house- he has a great goat fence.

Worms have been a constant worry with goats until this year. We lost all of last year's kid crop to barberpole worms, a particularly virulent type, but this year the goats have stayed healthy. We did lose one goat kid recently; somehow it strayed onto the county road and was run over.

These are the reasons for selling the goats. All of them will be sold as soon as the kids are weaned, except for our milk goats Patty and Dixie, whom I have not yet convinced my mother to sell. With the goats leaving, we plan to replace them with a more polite, refined animal: sheep. I hope they live up to their reputation.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

My Graduation

Two weeks ago we celebrated my high school graduation with friends and family. I believe that the majority of this blog's readers were actually at the graduation, but I thought I would give a brief account with a few observations.

The ceremony was held at our church. My pastor delivered a message exhorting me to hold fast to Christ and Scripture despite the pressures of the world; not to simply "make it" through life safely, but to strive after God's will and become an instrument in His hands that can accomplish much for His glory. I pray that I achieve that goal, through God's grace, and make my pastor's day.

My father gave me my charge, which was summed up in three points. He exhorted me to become a man of valor, integrity, and vision. Valor, meaning "strength of mind or spirit that enables a person to encounter danger with firmness." In the face of a world that is hostile to biblical principle, this virtue will be a necessity. Integrity, without which no character can be developed. Vision, so that I have the foresight to think of future generations when I make decisions, in order that our family can continue to glorify God on earth.

I have adopted these three words as my motto, to remind me always of the charge which I was blessed to receive. Any good motto must be in Latin, of course:

Valerus, Integritas, Vides

Friday, June 05, 2009

Farm Friday

This post is continuing a weekly "column" that you may remember from some time ago.

The past few weeks have been busy and exciting. Spring is the busy season for farmers, and this year has been unusually wet. As a result, planting has been delayed and some crops even lost, which means that things are still very busy. Almost all of our garden, which is wet even in a normal year, has been planted now. We still have a few things which we hope to plant tomorrow.

The garden stands in striking contrast to the wilderness of brush growing around it. The rain has caused enormous growth in the brush, and the weedeater has been busy just keeping the areas we walk and work on clear. These rows have just been planted to squash, melons, and cucumbers. (All of the pictures I took are either dark or blurred, due to the fact that I didn't get around to taking them until dusk. After all, I'm a farmer, not a photographer.)

The green beans are doing well, because green beans don't know what else to do.
We started our tomatoes from seed and planted them out while it was raining. I've found that rain doesn't actually hurt you.

The squash is just beginning to sprout.

Our corn is an heirloom variety called Texas Honey June, which is supposed to have a honey-like taste and good resistance to earworms. We didn't have very good germination, so I replanted some today. I also sowed white clover with the corn so that I will have a cover crop ready to turn under as soon as the corn is harvested.

I couldn't get a very good picture of the goat kids, but here is the best shot.

The pullets which I started in February should begin laying in a month.
The turkeys have done very well, and I just moved them out to pasture. I still have 17 out of the 20 which I ordered. They look and sound much different than chickens, especially with their extremely long necks.

Our two lambs, Percy and Benjamin, are getting along well. Both of them are growing faster than I would have expected- much faster than goat kids. Unfortunately, I took the pictures of the lambs last, so they're very dark.

These flowers caught my eye on my way in, so I thought I would include pictures of them. We have many hydrangeas growing wild along the edges of our woods.

Tomorrow we plan to continue our planting with more squash, cucumbers, peppers, and okra. We also hope to plant some popcorn to sell at the market next year, and some purple hull peas.

Have a great weekend,

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Government Motors

This CNN article gives the facts on GM's bankruptcy. Does anyone else wonder if politicians feed their brains with twinkies and soda? The U.S. government poured $19.4 billion down the GM drain to save the company, and it went bankrupt anyway. None of this comes close to surprising me, but $30 billion more? It's so strange that I feel like I'm missing something. And stating that "the taxpayers" own 60% of the company just makes me laugh. The only taxpayers who will have any control of GM are politician taxpayers (those politicians who pay them, that is, not Obama's cabinet).

My favorite article about the GM bankruptcy came, surprisingly, from public radio. Marketplace aired a report on it. This is the best part:

"'s difficult to find a public purpose behind this biggest industrial bailout in history. The goal can't be to preserve jobs because the Treasury has been telling GM to slim down; and the company plans to shut 11 factories and lay off 21,000 workers.

If the goal is a much smaller and leaner GM that might be profitable one day, that's something the private sector is better able to do than government -- through workouts or bankruptcies -- and there's no reason for public involvement.

If the goal is to create a prototype for a fuel-efficient car of the future, Congress has already appropriated money for that, and the Treasury says it doesn't want to tell the new GM what to produce anyway.

If the goal is to repay the public, there's no point in putting up the public's money to begin with.

So why exactly are we doing this? Maybe because the sudden dissolution of an American icon like GM would be a blow to the American psyche, further eroding confidence during this deep recession. Yet under normal bankruptcy the GM brand would likely live on, and GM's other valuable pieces would be bought up. Over the next decade or so, GM as we've known it will likely disappear in any event."

How encouraging! The government makes yet another wonderful investment to insure that future generations won't have any economic woes- and will drive Corvettes.

Monday, June 01, 2009

An Unpleasant Experience

This is the result of my drive home from work last Thursday evening. It involved a ditch and some loose gravel, and Tater didn't come through so well. The accident resulted in a near 180, ending in the ditch; a bucket was thrown out of the back 20 feet uphill, and a crack developed across the windshield. We don't know the full extent of the damage, but something's wrong with the transmission-we had to drive him home in reverse. I was uninjured, and I am pleased to report that the seatbelts in this '84 Chevy work well (I had often wondered...).

The Lord worked things out, as He always does. First, of course, in that I wasn't injured. A volunteer firefighter also "happened" to drive by, and he stopped to direct traffic and pull Tater out with his big four-wheel drive. Despite the scare and the damage, this accident just offers another opportunity to glorify God for His preservation and care for us, though we have nothing to offer in return.