Monthly Archives: March 2009

NO BOOTS!

Things are getting rough: in order to keep my sanity, it has come time to enforce two new rules that I’ve been putting off for awhile. Here’s the first one:


I made this nifty little sign and taped it up on the door between our entryway and kitchen. I couldn’t think of a better way to get the point across!

The second rule is no dogs on the couches. We never let them on our bed but love to cuddle with them on the couch. However, I want this to be a nice house and it isn’t very nice when the couches smell and shed like dogs. I’d love to show you a picture of our two new (used), dog-free couches but they won’t fit in our door so right now they sit in the shop. I’m thinking we may try to bring them in through our big bay window. Oh the joys of farmhouses with narrow doorways!

I am looking forward to not having dirty floors (or at least not as dirty). I have tried for a long time to keep shoes off of our nice wood floors but we didn’t care about the linoleum until now. I just can’t keep up and I’m sick of trying.

What’s the shoe policy at your house? Any exceptions? How do you enforce it? I’m ready to be rued if I have to – I’m so sick of the mess!

Wide Awake!

Isn’t it funny how I hit snooze 5 times on workdays and can still barely get up when I have to – and then this weekend I bounded out of bed by 7:30 AM all on my own, with no alarm at all!? My husband likes to say that he can work 14 hours on the farm and not feel as tired as after 8 hours on the clock.

This promises to be a productive day and I’ll be back later on to post about it. Just thought I’d stop in and wish every one a good morning! Enjoy your day! 🙂

My Take On Forward Contracting

This is a little more technical than most of my posts and refers to grain farming. Not sure how many readers raise grain but this is something I learned about that I’d like to share.

So basically, we grow the corn, we take it to the elevator, and then we either sell it right away (if prices are good) or we start to incur storage costs on it and don’t sell it until prices come back up. Supposedly, this is the first year in the last 10 where a farmer didn’t make money by storing grain until after the 1st of the year. Of course that would happen during our first harvest year, why not!?

So since we are beginning field work and need $$$ to buy fertilizer and seed, we really need the money from last year’s corn. Plus, we don’t want to pay to store it much longer. However, prices are still low enough that I’m not convinced they will even cover the cost of growing that corn. So, there is another option available: forward contracting. Basically, we sell the corn today and a check is mailed to us. The check is for the current price ($3.42/bushel) times the # of bushels we have minus any unpaid storage AND minus, in our case, $0.37/bu for this forward contracting option. This storage costs will stop the day we sell. The $0.37 gives us the option to “sell” again in the next 3 months in order to benefit if prices go up.

Say in June prices go up to $4.00. We could “sell” then and get a check for the extra $0.58 x # of bu. We can only do that once and then our “contract” is done. I think. The downside is that if prices don’t go up we would actually lose money. If prices go up $0.37 we would get back what it cost us to have the option but would come out the same as if we had sold outright at today’s current prices.

Is this understandable? I know it is a confusing topic, so I thought I’d share what I know. Maybe someone will Google it and find this post. Do you see what crop farming makes me batty!? I hate gambling, and that is what we do in this line of work.

Pigs?


Okay Abbie – this post is your fault!

So my interest in pigs has been sparked due to some strong recommendations in the comments section. Plus, to be honest, if I pick up one more book about lambing problems or starting seeds I just might go crazy. This lifestyle is enjoyable but even fun things can get monotonous. Since I can’t bring myself to bring home any animal without reading at least one book about it I’ve purchased a great one about pigs titled Dirt Hog. You can read all about it over at The Beginning Farmer‘s blog because he just got done reading it. Basically it is the only real book I could find that focuses on raising pigs in a more natural setting. I’m not sure that our first pigs will be raised that way but I need to know how pigs might fit in to our farm since we’re in the process of rebuilding our facilities. I am so excited to read this book. Like I said, I just need a change of pace.

In other pig-related news, I did call around to see what is available for heritage pigs in Michigan. I found some great folks over at Back Forty Acres and have to call them again to discuss some possibilities. They raise Tamworths which I hear have great mothering instincts meaning they do well without farrowing crates. I’d like to select a breed and get a couple of pigs to raise as feeders so we can see how we like the breed and the meat. Then maybe we can think about raising our own. We’ll see what happens. I hate to make the whole thing more complicated than it has to be, but I can’t stand feeling like I don’t know how to take care of them.

By the way, if you’re interested in this book you may have to buy it. I couldn’t find it anywhere in Michigan through the library system and never came across a used copy online. I finally just paid full price through Amazon.com

What do you think about pigs? Or, what are you reading lately?

Farm Update

I’m still here! Haven’t posted much this week due to the time change (I think!). I seem to be stuck in my old schedule and going to bed much later which means I’ve been dragging and tired all week. We’ve also been pretty busy, so I thought I’d fill you in with what we’ve been up to:

I know the video is a little dark but can you hear the little lamb sounds!? We had twins born yesterday. The mama had me worried as she started to have a vaginal prolapse a couple weeks ago. We fitted her with a harness truss, which is basically baling twine tied around her in a way that encourages her insides to stay in. The harness truss worked well, so well in fact that it was trying to hold the babies in! Brian came home to find feet poking out, cut the twine, and helped to deliver the first baby. Then, when he had me on the phone, another set of feet appeared! Both mama and babies are doing great, and she is showing great natural mothering instinct.

So, we only have one ewe left to lamb and I think she’s getting close. She showed some aggression towards the other lambs so right now I have her in a lambing pen while the other mothers and babies can be together in the main pen. I hope that she is gentle with her own lambs or we may have some problems.

Today I went to my Dad’s for a family gathering and bought a great little flatbed trailer from him. It will make a perfect base for an eggmobile. I’m expecting my order of heritage chicks in May which we will add to our layer flock. I also need to get in gear and build a pen for some broiler chicks, I’ve been talking about it for a long time and have a lot of interest already.

Brian is working like mad on the burnt shed now that warmer weather has come. He already filled one dumpster himself and is working on another. At first he planned to burn the old, singed lumber in his shop wood stove. Unfortunately, the foam they use to put out the fire also doesn’t allow the wood to burn. He called the foam manufacturer and was told that the foam is biodegradable so no special disposal is necessary. I can’t believe how much progress he is making! Right now we’re still unsure of exactly how we want to rebuild but plan to put a new roof on the entire building, rebuild and expand the lean to on the back, and then add siding later on. We’re still unsure if we’re going to use the excess insurance money to build a separate building for livestock or use it elsewhere and then build as we can afford it.

Brian is also getting ready to start conventional farming for the year. He spread some fertilizer on our wheat this morning and has more to do when he gets the time. We’re still not sure how much corn to plant since corn prices are soooo low, the current prices barely cover our expenses. We still have 3,000 bushels of corn from last fall that we’ve haven’t sold yet. This is also the first spring we’ve had square bales of hay left. We have about a 1,000 to sell and have had a lot of calls from one little ad on craigslist.

I’ve been knitting like an addict in my “free” time. I have the tote bag for Brian’s Mom done and one of the two handles knitted. Now I just have to finish the other handle and felt it! I have a lot of work to do on Brian’s slippers yet and have started a pair of socks for him as well. It is such a great hobby – I highly recommend it!

I’ve also borrowed a lot of books on Once A Month Cooking from the library, went grocery shopping today, and plan to make a bunch of meals to freeze tomorrow. The idea has interested me for a long time so I hope it works out. Any tips from the pros?

Even with the joys of spring I feel a teeny tiny bit sad that the lazier days of winter are over. There’s nothing lazy about summer on this farm! What about everyone else – are things getting hectic yet?

Lamb #2 !!!



Look what I found this morning! Lily, one of the first two lambs we brought to the farm, now has her own lamb. This one is a ewe lamb, and she is jet black. I thought the other baby was black but she is more like gray compared to this little girl. Who knew!?

I’m off to work, just wanted to share the good news!

I Started My Seeds!


I’m not exactly sure if this was the right time to do it, but I did it. The weather will never be exactly right in Michigan anyway. Here’s what I started on Sunday:

Snapdragons – 9 cells
Baby Dolls – 9 cells
Ping Tung eggplant – 9 cells
Long Purple eggplant – 9 cells
Amish Paste tomatoes – 36 cells

I used equal parts of peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite as a starting mixture. The plastic cells and trays are being reused from last year.



I’ll be starting another batch of tomatoes in a few weeks as well as some other flowers, my herbs, broccoli, and some others I’ve forgotten. Right now I have the tray down by our corn burner to stay warm. This next goal is to get Brian to hang up my new lights so the seedlings can go under there once they sprout. It feels like spring it finally here!