Category Archives: farm

County Fair 2016

We have just completed the County Fair for 2016. This year we had so much fun bringing animals to the fair for the first time. When I was living in the city and visiting the state fair I had no idea all the weeks and months of preparation that went into the exhibits in the 4H building and the animal barns. Since moving to Rush City, which happens to be where our county fair is held, we have enjoyed meeting some amazing people doing amazing things. It is always a joy to see who is bringing what to the fair. Now we brought our own animals. This year it was pigs and goats, and then the following weekend dogs for the dog show.


Avril with Spot.


Effie with her friend Alice for Cloverbud showmanship (youth under 9 are not allowed to handle animals).


Avril and Two with their goats.


Avril and Delilah. Two and Jack at the dog show.

The pig show required me to be more hands on. So I wasn’t able to get pictures. Even the younger kids really loved seeing the animals at the fair. Lith and Pray, our youngest, are really going to be into animals I can tell already. They are already planning for next year.

Baby Season

Baby season has begun here at Crazy Boy Farm. This year we did things a little different. We waited until our females actually went in heat before putting them in with our males. So this year we actually sort of knew when the babies would come. So we were watching for signs and doing night checks and trying to be as prepared as possible.

Our first batch of babies was piglets. Their mother Elsa had really struggled last year (her first farrowing) with breech births and long labor and ended up only giving us one live baby. So this year we really weren’t sure what to expect. We were just hoping that it would go easier for her and hopefully some live babies.


She ended up giving us 10! Being a purebred Berkshire Hog (a heritage breed or old breed) she hasn’t been bred to give lots of babies. At the most we were hoping for 8. So when 7 and 8 came out together we thought we were done, but then about an hour later number 9 came out and 3 hours after that 10. Effie in particular is very happy with the piglets as you can see above. And Avril has really made a wonderful midwife for the animals learning how to clean the babies and make sure they are nursing and thriving.


One is missing in this picture. It is still pretty cold around here so we do have heat lamps for them.


The piglets are already a week old and some of them are joining their mother for a walk outside. I love this picture because it looks like she is talking to them. In all honesty I think she does talk to them. The range of vocalizations between them is impressive. I also love how they will look at each other when they are talking.


Then last night we had baby goats born. I had been watching Pearl, the mother, for two days. I checked her at 9 pm last night and she was calmly eating, then at the 10 pm check there were 3 babies. The last one was still in the sack and I tried to revive it but was not successful. Then while I was there she gave birth to a 4th one! this is highly unusual. The final baby was breach and was also born in the sack. I actually had to use my fingernails to ripe open the sack and free the baby. This one survived. So Pearl gave us 2 boys and 1 girl. We checked them often last night since it was so cold and they also have a lamp. They are all doing well and nursing, though one of these will likely be a bottle baby and it is hard for mothers to nurse triplets.


This little guy is the children’s favorite.

I am so pleased with how the season is going and how much the children are enjoying it. I actually don’t have to beg them to help with chores and sometimes they are even ready before I am.


Somehow Mavis even manages to look fashionable when she is out working with the animals. They make it all worth.



What a wonderful change this year has been. We have already enjoyed almost a week of 60 degree weather. This is VERY unusual for Minnesota. Even though this week is a bit cooler the break in winter weather (hopefully the end, pretty please) has been so refreshing. But with the change in weather comes other changes to the farm.


I really have no business complaining. Really Mud season is not that bad; except that it is very had to walk and all that cold mud is really hard on the animals, but it is heralding something much better. We just came off 3 days of rain so we are super saturated but hopefully it will start to dry out now.


Meet Zelen. One of our goals with moving to the farm was helping to get the children set up. We wanted to show them ways to avoid debt, make extra income, and be as self sufficient as possible. So Proeun II has started his own cattle business. Zelen is a 3 year old Galloway. We purchased her bred and will hopefully have a calf this June. She is accompanied by Claire who is a year old this month. We are so excited to start this process with the children. II will be showing Claire at the fair this year.


Scout and Tiger. Really good mousers are worth their weight in gold and we try hard to colonize at least 2 cats in each of our out buildings but with spring these 2 guys were getting into more fights and Tiger had been taking off for longer and longer periods of time. At one point we really thought we had lost him. So we decided that it was worth the extra money to invest in their health and they have both been fixed now. All the cats on our farm have now been fixed (except for one female we hope will give us kittens so the children can experience it once before we fix her).


Avril is hoping to start her own business this spring as well–sheep. And with sheep come sheep dogs. I actually was feeling the need for some herding dogs every time the goats got out but it really wasn’t in the budget. Then we came across these 2 dogs. They are actually Amish dogs and a mix of herding breeds (Australian Shepherd, Blue Mountain Heeler and Border Collie). They were just right. Avril will be joining II in Dog training this year through 4H.

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We have also begun growing for our CSA. After several years on our own farm it is nice to have some systems set up that make the work more routine. We now have our cooler doing double duty as a germination room and our small greenhouse up that we use for early season. It is so fun to see the very beginnings of plant babies.


We are also waiting on our animal babies. Elsa our Berkshire hog will farrow again any day now. And the goats will start after that. I do love spring.

The Season Ends in Art

Last week we delivered our last box of the season. All in all it was a great season, with amazing weather and good growing conditions. I can honestly say that I really enjoyed farming this year. But there is still a beauty in passing to a new season. Yesterday instead of harvesting and packing boxes we ate soup, napped and watched a movie in the afternoon.

On Saturday we had a great time at a baby shower for Proeun’s little sister. So great to see the family growing! we also went to the city early so that Proeun could go a class for his work and I could help with the cooking. We did have a little time to kill so we went to the Minneapolis Institute of Art. We had been wanting to go for quite awhile. It is so fun to see kids react to art.


Effie and Pray loved this exhibit. Effie was convinced it was space. I am not so sure. She would have sat there staring at it for a long time. Two was not amused by their interest.



The kids were confused by this exhibit. “A kitchen is art?” But it was in the modernist section. I loved it. I am all about space saving solutions. Art well lived.



This was a modern piece by an artist I know. I did several interviews of Cy Thao and followed his work in my other life as a writer for Hmong Times. Many of the refugee experiences of the Hmong are similar to the experiences of Proeun’s family. This piece depicts their transition from rural jungle to U.S.

We still have alot of projects around here and are already excited about next year’s season. But these cooler days are a nice excuse to pursue other interests.


Timber Harvest

I love trees. One of my childhood homes had a border of woods. I loved those woods even though I didn’t often venture very far into them. My next home had no trees. It had been a farmer’s field before it was subdivided into suburban lots. My first home with Proeun (a rental) again had a border of trees around a pond. Right outside our bedroom window was a willow. That is what I remember most about that home.

So when Proeun and I were looking for a farm I hoped it would have woods–real woods not just a few trees planted around the house. Well we were blessed beyond belief and have 15 acres of woods. However they were not very healthy. We have a tremendous amount of buckthorn that really keeps us from getting into the thick of the woods.

A few weeks ago I saw an ad in the paper targeting woodland owners. We knew we had some dead trees, some fence lines that needed clearing and dreams of a new barn that would have insulation and electricity so it would be more comfortable for animals to birth, even in the winter. But all we had was a wall of trees.

Then Precision Tree and Landscape came into our lives. Steve was amazing. From the first time he came to the farm and gently corrected me when I called him, “the tree guy,” (he is in fact a forester) to his ongoing help through the project, we have been so happy with the company. We still miss our trees but know it is much healthier and usable this way.

And it did take some getting used to though, having those huge machines around. Chris actually did our cutting. He was another top notch guy and really great to work with.


Chris and his machine.



The machine getting ready to cut a problem tree.



Loading into the chipper.



Chipper loading the semi.

We found out that alot of the moisture problems (and hence sick animals) have been because not enough air was moving around the barn. Now the pig pen actually dries up! and hopefully we won’t have as much condensation from the roof dripping on animals inside the barn.

So we now have a beautiful property that is accessible via trails into the woods and an area cleared for a future barn but we also will get a little income. Not alot but we didn’t have to pay for it and Proeun didn’t have to spend months doing it by hand.

Now I guess goats are great for controlling buckthorn. Luckily we have those, including three babies left from this year. Now the children are happy that we are happy the goats are contributing to the farm in a way no other animal can.

Oh and Pray loved seeing all those big machines around.

Foggy Bottom Alpacas

This weekend we were about neck deep in projects that need to be done before winter. This is our normal operating procedure–neck deep. But as I have said before our children are getting older and we feel like we want to take the time to make memories with them. I am always on the lookout for fun things to do close to our home. For the past 3 years I had heard about the National Alpaca Days. But like I said I always thought we were too busy to go. Not this year, we were going to make time. When I told the children that we were going to an alpaca farm they were practically giddy. So off we went to Foggy Bottom Alpacas.


Of course convincing the children that we were actually going to be leaving without an alpaca was a bit difficult. Two (Crazy Boy) said, “we have had cows, pigs, chickens, bees, goats, and dogs in the back of the suburban. Why is an alpaca different?” For me it is the price, they are definitely a high end animal, but fun to look at.


Foggy Bottom started 7 years ago with 4 animals. Now there are 109 on the farm. Mark and Sara’s daughter even started her own business Over the Rainbow Alpacas. They are very passionate and have an amazing set up.


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This little guy is only 5 days old! We had great fun visiting the alpacas and farm family and shopping at the on-site store. If you get a chance to stop by it will be well worth your time to visit with these amazing animals and people. Oh and for all my fiber arts friends, the fiber is fabulous!

Midsummer News

I have often said that the summer is so fleeting it seems that by the 4th of July the summer is virtually over. So this year we are really trying to hang on and enjoy as much as possible. But I wanted to spend some time sharing with you what is going on around our farm. First off we are having a bumper crop of basil! Silly news I know but we are having fun figuring out new ways to cook with basil.

2nd our helpers are getting bigger and having more fun around the farm.


Pray was our first child born on the farm. He is definitely a farm boy and he knows how it works to! Here he puts on my work gloves and heads to the barn. Notice the not matching boots. Nothing else matters when it is chore time.


He loves the animals and it appears that Donkey is his favorite. Funny how Donkey seems to know to be extra careful with his little friend. And I dare say Donkey loves the attention (yes his name is Donkey).


We also have decided that since building a farm (and life in general) is a marathon we should take breaks when we can. For the children the simple act of going to the north shore (of Lake Superior) and throwing rocks is enough to reset them. Here we are at Tettegouche State Park. We hadn’t been there since we only had one child, so it was a fun and memorable outing.


More rock throwing.



Then we went to canal park in Duluth to rent a bicycle for a family bike trip. Loads of laughs there, but mommy and daddy’s legs were definitely burning when we were down. Oh and we actually got to see a ship come into the harbor. Mr. Pray is all about anything mechanical and big, so he was pretty impressed.

This week is the county fair so even more fun is around the corner and I will try to update you on that. But until then enjoy your summer!



The Animals of Crazy Boy Farm and Open House

For years now we have been saying we want to do a calendar. But you know how it is and other projects keep pushing it to a back burner. But as we are loving this spring weather and all the animals on our farm (who are also loving the spring weather) I got an idea for a post–the Animals of Crazy Boy Farm.

But first I wanted to invite all you to our spring open house on May 31st, from 1-4:00. We will have tours, up close encounters with some of our animals, tasty food (we will provide the main dish, please bring a dish to share), great conversation and more. Hope to see you there. And don’t forget we still have some CSA shares available here.


Avril and Buddy, the pony we were given last year. Avril is training him as part of her 4H horse project.



Avril practicing backing Buddy up.




Mavis would love a pony of her own but we are working on being content with what we have and what we do have is a mini donkey. Donkey (his name was Jack but since we already had a Jack he became Donkey but now Mavis has decided he needs a better name so she chose John) came to our farm 2 years ago. For a long time he was the biggest animal we had. He loves the attention but is still stubborn.


Mavis and Avril practicing “ground work.”


Berkshire hogs joined our farm last year. We are expecting babies in June. Here they are waiting for dinner.



In this post we talked about jersey calves joining our farm. Well here is what they look like now. It was a rough winter and we have learned alot along the way. Out of the 5 we have 2 left but they are going strong. As another farmer friend told us when farming with animals “the learning curve really stinks!” But we are very happy with these boys.





It is now goat season. These 2 were born yesterday and we actually got to see it. All the children except for the baby were there to see at least the 2nd baby born. As Two said, “boy the miracle of life is messy!”






Then of course there is Jack, our constant companion. He is loving this warm weather and a quick role in the leaves.

Hoophouse, etc. etc. etc.

For the past couple of years as soon as the CSA season ended we crashed. We had just completed a marathon of work and it was time to rest. But also for the past couple years the springs have been horrible for planting–snow on the ground till May, followed by lots and lots of rain and more cold. So this year we knew that if we have projects that we wanted to complete before the next growing season we were going to have to complete them in the fall. So this year as soon as the CSA season ended we began projects and have been working every since.

The first and biggest project was our hoophouse. This will allow us to plant earlier in the spring regardless of what the weather is like. We knew with the weather patterns of the past couple of years a strong growing season depended on it.

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We ordered from Zimmerman High Tunnels and have been very happy with both the customer service, quality and price. Thanks to my wonderful husband assisted by our oldest son and my father-in-law the hoophouse went up in just 2 weeks! We did have neighbors and family come out to help with the plastic where more people is definitely best, thanks mom and dad, Sambath and the Leathermans!

The kids favorite part was digging a hole. Not sure what we do with it now.


Originally I had planned on spending the month of October doing 31 Days to Clean. Another side effect of a really busy growing season is that it seems like the house begins to fall apart. So I wanted to go on a guided cleaning spree but with so much work to be done outside that had to take a back burner. But I find that I do know what areas really need attention and try to work on it a little everyday.


So after the hoophouse there was the field to get prepared for next spring. Another wonderful neighbor of ours, Marv, loaned us a plow to help break up our perpetually hard soil.

Last weekend it was planting garlic, again thanks to my father-in-law as bending over is getting more and more difficult for me.


So great that the nice weather is holding. More projects this weekend. How are you spending your fall?

Welcome Jerseys

I am sure anyone who has tried to start their own business understands the struggle to stay on top of changes in the market. But when you farm you also have to stay on top of changing weather! My the past couple of years have been weird–long, long winters, super wet springs, cool summers, etc. At least this year we didn’t have the number of severe storms we had last year. But anyway you get the picture. While we are adding a hoop house this fall for our vegetable production we decided that it was time to branch out into meat production. You have already see our pigs. Now it is time to meet the cows.



It has always been a dream of Proeun’s to have cattle. We always thought that we would go with a traditional beef breed but the price of cows is particularly high this year. We were lucky to stumble upon a local dairy that uses Jerseys (jerseys have always been my favorite), They sell their bull calves for meat production and we purchased five (not all of them are pictured). They are only a couple weeks old now and the children really love handling them. We are still bottle feeding them twice a day and we keep them in a stall at night but bring them out to their own pen during the day so the children are getting plenty of practice leading them.

While I love eating vegetables I have always found working with the animals more rewarding on a personal level. 2014 has been a difficult year for crops but at least some good has come out of it by pushing us to expand our business (and family life) into other ventures. All in all it has been very good.