March 26, we’re out doing chores and by the time we’re done… it’s snowing. Weather Underground says it’s supposed to be in the 40′s with maybe snow or rain… not accumulation expected.
I just looked out the window, and we’ve got better than an inch with no let up of the snow, and no wind.
Oh well, we’re not quite ready to get into the garden, so a little more moisture is always good. We generally get less than 10 inches of moisture a year, so when we have a “wet year”, we rejoice.
Remember that post where I said we’d be doing “organic gardening” this year? Well, we chose to get really serious about the whole thing.
The bad news is that we still can’t legally call our produce “organic” nor can we call it “transitional”. That’s because only “certified organic producers” can use the term “organic” in their marketing and advertising.
The good news is that we are officially applying for Organic Certification. We’ve spent the last month making phone calls, meeting with folks, filling out applications, developing our “Organic System Plan”, and testing our soil. It’s taken all three of us to complete this phase of the project. All that’s left is to deliver one copy of everything to our guy at the NRCS (we’ve put in for an EQIP grant), and then to send the whole package to Salt Lake along with a $200 check.
Things I really like about this process are that it makes us actually plan what we’re going to do. We have to study labels to make sure we’re using approved materials. We have to monitor and maintain records that show what we’ve done. It’s all about the record keeping with these folks.
I’m in charge of the manure handling and composting systems. That’s mostly tractor work, so I can do that. I also like math and chemistry, so don’t mind working through all the formulas. We plan to utilize our own on-farm materials as much as possible. I’m also responsible for the soil tests, and water tests (when we can afford them).
Bev is in charge of the master record keeping, and the garden planning. She and I will do most of the marketing.
Cindy is in charge of the aquaponics system. This year is a test of that system. It’s in the greenhouse, and could take over that entire area.
We are all involved in the planting, caring and monitoring of what gets done. Most of the irrigation will be automatic or consist of engaging a valve and then timing before turning off.
Our goal is to gain “Organic Certification” as soon as possible. Once that is done we’ll begin to develop our plans for a CSA.
Right now, all we can do is hope the weatherman is right when he says we’ll be in the low 70′s late next week.Buy me a beer and I'll write more posts more often.
It’s been wonderful to have a week or two of early spring. The snow is all gone, the ground has dried well enough to work with the tractor, cleaning up winter’s mess.
Bev and Cindy have been working on a new project… aquaponics. This should be quite exciting, as it is a fully contained system of raising fish and raising produce, while conserving water.
We’re in the process of putting a new cover on the greenhouse. This one will have a wood frame at each end. It will also have a proper double cover and be inflated between the covers.
While Bev and Cindy work on those projects, I’ve been working on cleaning the goat pen, and the hog pen. This is all tractor work, and I have the patience to do it. Also it’s best to do it while it’s still cold outside… keeps the smell down.
We moved the ram to his bachelor quarters for the summer, as our ewes are due in mid April. With the new configuration of the pens and chutes, we simply opened the chute towards his pen, dropped a flake of hay in his new home, and waited. We let the ewes inspect his quarters, too and say “farewell” to him.
The next morning, I shooed the last of the ewes from his pen and closed him in. You could say he wasn’t real happy about his new place. He tried to jump on top of his shelter, and then tried to jump the fence before resigning himself to a forced vacation.
Now, just two days later, we’re in the middle of a wind/sand storm. While it’s in the low 60′s, it’s just not bearable outside with winds above 30 mph and gusting to about 45. The sand and tumbleweed is headed north.Buy me a beer and I'll write more posts more often.
We’ve been raising a couple of hogs all winter. One is for our freezer and the other is for a neighbor. We bought them at the end of November for $140 for the pair. After nearly $300 for feed, and then another $250 or so to butcher and process both hogs, we should end up with about 260 lbs of cut and wrapped pork.
Our neighbor is getting the gilt (about 200# live) and we’re getting the boar (about 250# live).That means we’ll both have freezer’s full of pork for an average cost of less than $2.75 per pound.
For having been our first experience raising hogs, we’re pleased at the results so far. No one fell into the pen, although one of our dogs did jump in early on. No one got bitten by either pig, although I got surprised more than once by the boar, who was “always up for a meal”.
Later this spring, we’ll dismantle the pen, and pile the manure in a spot to age for a year or two. Then I’ll grade the pen area and we’ll assemble a larger pen for the next time. We will still only raise two pigs, but we feel they need more room for finishing.
It will be about a week until we get the meat back from the butcher. He will cure and smoke the bacon and the hams and hocks. He’s also going to make breakfast and Italian, and ground pork.
This morning, a neighbor showed up with another valley resident and big truck and trailer. They had already loaded two cattle, and Clyde’s two hogs. Time to decide if our drive was dry enough to support the weight.
John put his truck and trailer in 4-wheel drive and proceeded to back into our drive, being very careful to stay on the north (dry) side. the trick was to miss the frost-free hydrant, while staying in line with the hog pen. I took this photo after they left so you can see just how close he had to be.
Thanks to our neighbor, Clyde and his friend John, the two guys managed to load our hogs without much of our help. By installing a couple of panels, they created a path for the hogs . Then, they simply poured a bucket of corn in the trailer, and let nature take it’s course.
I stood near the trailer and called to them. Since I’ve been the one who fed them the most, they know my voice,. As soon as the boar got a whiiff of the corn… his curiosity got the better of him. The gilt wasn’far behind.
Once loaded, the only thing left was to call the butcher and give hm cutting instructions.Buy me a beer and I'll write more posts more often.
We’ve begun building the new aquaponics system. This will be placed in the little greenhouse.
We are awaiting a call from the Utah Dept of Ag about becoming “Certified Organic”. Wouldn’t you know it… everyone we need to contact is gone to a conference for the week. Thankfully they are checking email.
I now in my previous post I said we’ll be selling organic stuff this summer… not so fast, grasshopper. We will continue to sell “naturally raised” produce until such time as we have either our “small farm exemption” or our certificate. There is no approved use of the word “transitional”.
Be sure to hop over to Backyard Aquaponics and see what we’re doing there.
You may notice some changes on this site as I update links and references.Buy me a beer and I'll write more posts more often.
It’s official. We’ve successfully passed that three year transition in our vegetable gardens and can now say we’re practicing organic gardening. This year at the Cedar City Farmers’ Market, we will sell organic produce. Our next step is to seek certification.
Our animals remain naturally raised, but not organic as our alfalfa producer doesn’t use organic methods. That’s ok, because most of what we raise is four our own use.
We are putting what we hope will be the last cover on our greenhouse. We are converting it to aquaponics. At this tide, we’re working collectively to build the system.
Our aquaponics system will initially be built using three 55 gallon blue barrels, some lumber and lots of PVC and fittings. Once it’s built we’ll get a dozen or so goldfish to provide the fertilizer and nutrients for the plants. Watch for a whole new section as we get going on this.
Elsewhere on the farm, our two cows are pregnant, and due to calve in May. We’re hopeful that our sheep will provide lambs in April. The two pigs are ready to butcher, one for us, and one for our neighbor.
Sadly when the ground thaws, we’re going to have to put down Neche, our ranch horse. She has developed an inoperable cancer of the left eye. We hauled her to the vet last month, and he confirmed our worst fears. One of our neighbor’s (about 7 miles down the road) has offered to dig a big hole and put her down.
Our dog pack is getting along quite well. Fro time to time, the pup gets on the old gals’ nerves and then gets put in her place. In June, she is going to the vet for her “big girl” operation. She will also lose her dew claws at that time.
We still have our goofy goats and free-loading chickens. They don’t produce as much as they cost, but we love them.Buy me a beer and I'll write more posts more often.
We got a call early this morning from Cindy’s son in Ohio. He wanted to know if we’d create a website/blog for his ice guide business. Without hesitation, we both said “yes, we’ll be happy to do that for you”.
Over the next couple of weeks, you’ll want to check in on my “work from home blog” as I will be detailing what I’m doing. No secrets. I’ll tell you what tools I’m using, and in many cases will be able to provide those for you at little to no cost. What better way to test products than to actually use them first?
As for what else is going on around here… Cindy got Bev to give a most-wanted Christmas gift early. Cindy got a new video camera. Chewy will be starring in several videos. She’s such a cute and active Border Collie puppy!
Shortly, we’ll be putting our gifts under the tree. It will be interesting to see how Chewy reacts. So far, she’s been pretty well-behaved, but then we didn’t hang any ornaments lower than waist high. Makes the tree look kind of funny, but at least it’s puppy proof.Buy me a beer and I'll write more posts more often.
Saturday Mom, Bev and I made the trek to St. George. Between the “snowbirds” and seasonal shopping it was very hectic. Traffic is never really good, and Saturday it was even worse. There are nearly as many out-of-state license tags as in-state.
We had lunch at Basila’s, a wonderful Mediterranean restaurant. Bev and I had Gyros, while Mom had a Meatball Sub. Of course we had to save room for the awesome, delicious Baklava. The pieces were a good 6″ long!
While we were there, we went to Harmon’s, an upscale supermarket. We’ve found their standing rib roasts to be outstanding. At $6.99/lb., that was a really good buy. The butcher cut us a beautiful 4-bone roast, trimmed it nicely and then re-tied it. I expect that will be one of our holiday meals.
By the time we’d been to another 4 stores, we got to Smith’s for our final grocery shopping. Cindy had wanted us to bring home dinner. We were so tired we couldn’t think of anything, go picked up 4 Marie Callanders frozen dinners. That way we each got our choice of what to eat.
Sunday morning, the “boys” called to invite us to lunch with a game of cards following. Josh made potato soup and turkey sandwiches, a very pleasant meal indeed. It was at that time they announced Christmas dinner would be at their house… and they’re serving Prime Rib!
From the sounds of it, dinner will be for about 10 or 12 people, all neighbors who are staying home for Christmas. That should be fun… much like Thanksgiving last year.
Christmas Eve will be at our house with pretty much the same group of neighbors. Mom makes “Wimpy’s” aka “Sloppy Joes”, along with salad and some kind of dessert. It’s kind of a come when you can anytime after 4pm until about 7pm. That’s so we can open our gifts later in the evening.Buy me a beer and I'll write more posts more often.