Monday, September 12, 2005

Have you Noticed?

Have you noticed that for every farmer out there , there seems to any number of bureaucrats, consultants and what ever.

I was just looking around the web for farm related blogs and came up with everything but.

People writing about farm policy (explain that to the sheep), organic certification (filling in forms morfs crops into "organic" crops, near as I can tell).

I did find one or two blogs that looked like they were written by farmers but the subject matter was politics or whatever else. Nothing wrong with that, I'm doing it myself with this post, but it makes me wonder a bit.

Friday, September 09, 2005

From Scratch

In some ways I'm starting this farm from scratch. The starting point was very nice indeed, good land, good fences, house, barn, machine shed, shop; all fine buildings. But empty.

No stock. No equipment. No spare parts. No piles of scrap, leftover this and that to use to patch up a broken widget.

This is intended to be an observation rather than a complaint. I knew what I was getting into, well sort of anyway.

Every production farm I've ever been around has it's own momentum. It has a basic production cycle that it has been through many times before. Of course it changes over time, but from year to year it is much the same.

This farm has been run as a cow calf operation until a year or so before we bought it. It is a small place, it supported 20 mama cows and a bull, plus the calves of course. The man who ran it, part time mostly, for 30 some years was nearly 80 and just couldn't do it any more. He took very good care of the place. When they sold it to us they cleaned it up and took all their stuff. There was not so much as a bent nail left behind.

I have my own ideas of how I want to farm. They range from firm plans to vague notions of what I might like.

I had quite a lot of farming experience as a teenager; my dad's 100+- head cow calf operation; some time on a 3000+- head open range sheep operation; several years of working for the Vet part time, going from farm to farm and holding down the critters while he did awful things to them.

But I was a teenager a very long time ago. Now here I am, fat, fifty and rather crippled. I'm learning more each day about just how much I don't know.

The plan has been to try things on a small scale. To learn as I go. To set up the needed infrastructure as I go.

I am very fortunate that I don't need to make a living at this, my family would probably starve, or at least eat all the livestock before I learned to care for them properly. I intend to get the farm operation above break even, but it will be awhile.

My joke (that I swiped from somewhere) is that I know how to make a small fortune in farming, just start with a large fortune.

So far we have a small heard of sheep, two heifer calves, a very sway backed old mare, some laying hens, and a new batch of broilers in the brooder.

For the mixed mob of ruminants (plus Gracey the guard horse) I divided the four pastures into ten paddocks with electric twine that average 2 1/2 to 3 acres each. All have good grass, shade and water. I've set up simple handling facilities for the sheep in the barn. It works OK but needs improvement. I have a second hand head gate for the cattle leaning against the fence, ready to install at the end of an existing alley just as soon as I get time.

For the laying hens I've built a shelter next to my little vegetable garden, I intend to move it in a year of so and use the spot where it is as the world's best pumpkin patch. For the broilers I converted a small building to use as a brooder/processing facility. I have an open bottom pen where they will spend the weeks between the brooder and the freezer. I have an almost done Whizbang plucker under construction in the shop.

I don't have to much in the way of machinery, but I've set up a small tractor with a bucket loader and a mower. I came across a Hay baler that is nearly as old as I am, and with the help of an 79 year old retired farmer I know, actually got it to make hay.

I'm sure that folks that observe this foolishness are sure that I'm nuts or worse, but the fact is, I've never has so much fun in all my life.

Let's try this again

It has been a very long time since I've done a post, but I've decided to give it another shot. I see it's been over a year, wow!

I am inspired by several blogs I've gotten into the habit of reading lately. I'll add links to them as soon as I figure out how.