Category Archives: Farming

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.


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.

Land Stewardship Project Comes to Northern and East Central MN

We have been a part of the Land Stewardship Project (LSP) ever since we got started farming. We were introduced to them by the Minnesota Food Association and have enjoyed attending their various farmer training programs and been a part of their CSA Directory for many years. But I am sorry to admit that I really haven’t been aware of their work on policy issues until last night.

LSP is opening a new office in Duluth. They hope to cover the whole state and one of the major issues they are working on is affordable health insurance for farmers. And then there is the Farm Bill. This lengthy document is produced every 6 years in Washington and details much if not all of the policy that affects farms, rural communities and anyone who eats food in the U.S.

I don’t understand this document. I am completely at a loss and I am beginning to realize that we can not depend on media in this country to accurately report the issues that affect us most.

So when I got the invitation to attend a LSP policy meeting that would actually be held in my neck of the woods I realized it was a must.

Last night I joined around 25 other farmers from the area who are interested in legislation that will “support family farmers and sustainable agriculture. Promote the next generation of family farmers on the land. And Stop corporate controlled agribusiness from hijacking the next farm bill.”

Of course the inevitable debate came up–the chemical debate. Some farmers were absolutely against any chemicals, another had a large no-till operation that used herbicides to control weeds. However the organizers, Kaitlyn and Tom, were able to reframe the conversation. Small farms have an uphill battle, and we shouldn’t fight so much about the method. As I have said before I firmly believe that no farmers want to damage the land. They all have decisions they have to make for their land, family and businesses. Often times those are hard decisions.

The debates over method can drive us away from focusing on moving forward. Tom said, “the things we can’t do alone we can do together. . . .we can move policies, legislatures.” The key therefore is, “organized people, ideas and resources.”

Since 1996 LSP has been working with the Farm Bill. In 2002 the Conservation Stewardship Program (one that promotes conversation efforts on rural land) was included, while a ban on Packer (meat packers) owned Livestock passed in the Senate but not the House.

In 2008 funds were allocated for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Programs and in 2014 amid a “really hostile enviroment,” Kaitlyn said their goal was to maintain the programs that have already passed and expand them nationwide.

Currently their main goal is to prepare for the next Farm Bill in 2020 and oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership. While this may not sound like a farm related issue, this agreement between 12 pacific rim countries was negotiated in private and would allow multi-national companies to sue governments (federal all the way down to municipal) for infringing on trade rights. These trade rights would take precedence over all else. One farmer named Mike said that this issue particularly concerned him, “It would affect our way of life. Everything from wages to conservation and our ability to function as a democracy.”

I am so glad I went to last nights meeting. I think if there is one thing I am learning this year it is that I want to be more aware of what is going on in this country and involved in politics. Before I left last night I committed to calling my representatives.

Of course there is still alot to be done around the farm, but if I want to be able to maintain the life I love so much then I need to be involved.


Kaitlyn educates on the farm bill.



Sledding fun

Sometime every winter Proeun and I have the discussion that I am sure most Minnesotans are familiar with–should we stay in the frigid north or head somewhere sunnier. Since moving to Crazy Boy Farm we have definitely had that discussion less. While we are not proficient at the winter sports yet we are slowly building our repertoire.

This winter there hasn’t been much snow. And the one thing we are lacking here on the farm is a hill. The first winter first snow we realized “uh oh, no place to go sledding!” Last year Proeun tried using the tractor to pile up snow. That worked pretty good but this year there hasn’t been enough snow to even do that. Luckily we have a big pile of wood chips left over from this falls clearing project. And voila, sledding hill. The children have been out almost every day and for them a day is not complete until they have sledded. Now we need a little more snow.

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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.

Relics at the Threshing Show

A friend of my recently posted this article about a couple that has chosen to live in the past–in the Victorian era to be exact. I must admit that there was a point in my life where I could see me doing this. In fact my first job was as a “historical interpreter” at Historic Fort Snelling. I have come to realize that there is no ideal time, though some will try to idealize a “simpler by gone time.” I am aware of the fact that my marriage could not, would not have existed 100 years ago. My husband’s family would have stayed in Cambodia, I in Minnesota and our children would not have existed.

However I do still love history. I love working with my hands, creating things, or restoring things and simplifying life. Apparently there is a family close to us that also has this passion. Every year for the first weekend after Labor Day we would see the signs for Andersons Rock Creek Relics Threshing Show. We have always allowed our own duties on the farm to keep us from going, but since our goal this year is balance, we knew we had to take time to do some of these fun events.

So on Sunday, right after chores we headed over to the Andersons. It was truly an amazing experience. The family has for the past 4 generations been building and restoring antique farm equipment, plus the buildings to house them is. There is a replica cabin, black smith shop and more.



Here they give a demo of threshing. I had to take 2 pictures to try and get the whole production but basically there was a big belt going from one tractor to the thresher. Then there was a person standing on the pile of bundled wheat and pitching it on to the thresher. On a personal note I was sharing with my grandparents about the threshing show and grandpa said, “your grandma’s job was cooking for the threshers when they came.” Wow what a piece of family history, now I have an idea what that actually looked like.



The children learn about phones that needed operators to function.




An old style generator.




Corn shucker.



The barns were full of equipment that had been rebuilt. I liked the name on this manure spreader. We have a spreader that was made by a company in Canada. It was nice to compare.




The children learn about when water came from a pump.



Then there was the corn maze, a hit to be sure. It was a great weekend, and a new tradition was made. Now I am inspired to incorporate history more into our lives. I do love our technology, but there is something about doing things thoughtfully and by hand that produces more then just a tangible product.

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.

Spring is here

I cannot tell you how blessed I feel that spring has come early for us this year. Proeun and I were just talking over the weekend that last year at this time (and the year before) we still had alot of snow cover on the ground. In January when I laid up after the birth of Lith it already felt like such a long winter and I could barely bring myself to hope for an early spring. And then it came.


The great thing about Minnesota in the spring is everyone feels wonder.


This weekend we finally got around to getting a hammock for Proeun as a birthday gift. He has wanted one for years. We will see if he gets to use it much. Now he is saying we need 2.


Even our work had a fun, festive feel. We had some repairs to do on our hoophouse from the winter. Here the girls and Pray Grant just enjoy the warmer temps the hoophouse offers.


Pray Grant is our little fix it. If there is any project being done involving tools he wants to be involved. Here he is looking for something to measure.



While we were building the hoophouse last year Two had great fun digging a hole. I love how this life lets the children experiment with there imagination, and really create a fun game. Here the left over poles became a bridge that was used for a star wars reenactment as well as a conquistador.

Now that the hoophouse is ready and the weather has warmed the plants in the greenhouse will soon be finding there way to the soil and I can’t wait. I am so ready for fresh from the garden veggies. Are you? If you haven’t looked into purchasing a CSA share it is a great way to get a good mix of veggies, learn some fun preparations and support a local farm. Local Harvest has listings for CSA farms across the country. If you are in our area you can find out more about our CSA here.

Get out and enjoy spring!

Lessons from Lith

I have not been very active on the blog this year. Some of you may have figured out the reason–we have been preparing for a new addition to the farm, a new human addition. And for some reason this time around it just all seemed like such a rush. I was desperate to figure out systems and get things set up around the farm to make our work easier before baby number 6 arrived. I hadn’t realized what a frenzy of anxiety I had worked myself into until she was born this last month. There was the initial craziness of mom in the hospital (we decided against a homebirth this time) and dad and children trying to take care of everything around the farm. Then we came home to a wonderful welcome home party, clean house and children all anxious to hold their new sibling. But the initial craziness soon subsided and we found a routine and since it is winter a bit slower pace.

I found a new rhythm and stride and a weight lifted off my shoulders. Normally I love being pregnant but this time around not so much. Now I am free to enjoy our newborn and feeling much healthier then I have before. Hopefully that will translate to more energy for writing and farming as the new season approaches.

But I have discovered that each child gives me valuable insights and lessons as I grow to become the person I was meant to be. This child is no different. Whereas my first child started me on this journey and that I should expect the unexpected, my 2nd child taught me how much work I had to do on character and that for sure if you have a character flaw your child will get it.  My 3rd child taught me the beauty of life and letting go my ideas of the perfect sized family, my fourth taught me what a blessing health is and that it should be guarded. My 5th and 1st child born in our new life on the farm challenged me to set up ways to make work easier and this last child has taught me how futile worry is.

Last year was not a particularly good year for us. The wacky weather continued and seemed worse than usual. The CSA market was flooded and our membership was way down, so we had to look for other income streams and could not hire help like we had previously and I was pregnant, worried about how we would continue, my health, the baby’s health and a multitude of other things. I worried about having a homebirth, then I worried about having a hospital birth. There really wasn’t much I didn’t worry about, but in the end I have a beautiful perfect baby in my arms and both our health is preserved and the Lord provided through last year. Surely I didn’t need to worry. Now I am relaxing in a feeling of contentment. I am still planning and dreaming, but trying to let go if things do not go as planned. I am thankful for Lith and the lessons she has brought as I am thankful for all the other children. I am so thankful for this life, though it is hard at times. Many of the choices we have made are not the popular choice, but they are ours and we continue to grow as individuals and a family.