Our children are getting older. They have begun asking how many states they have been to. I have been informed that Wisconsin doesn’t count as a different state since it is less then 15 minutes away. Mmm lets see three of you have been to California, otherwise we haven’t been out of the state. That can’t be right. But yes it is true we haven’t been on a vacation or even out of the state in years. We talked about doing a vacation but always the demands of the farm and a small budget get in the way. So this year we planned a staycation. During that we pretended we were on vacation so no farm work other then chores. We got to eat out and see some of our favorite places. I also wanted to try some of the interesting food destinations I have been hearing about.
I remember going to Tobies once with my grand mother. Since we were doing an unofficial food tour I wanted this to be our first stop on the way north. I lived up to my expectations but the treats disappeared so fast there were no pictures.
Then we stopped at our favorite beach in Two Harbors for a little picnic and playing in the frigid water. I thought it would be too cold for the children to want to get in the water, but they insisted on bringing their swimming suits. I am glad I listening to them. Our favorite picnic at Two Harbors is always smoked fish and cheese curds.
Gooseberry Falls in another favorite spot. We try to go at least once a year.
Effie helped me contain Lith a bit in a more kid friendly area. My goodness Lith is a daredevil already!
We also stopped in Mahtowa at TJ’s Country Corner. This store boasts some of the best wurst and sausage in Minnesota, all made on site. It had such a fun atmosphere on the weekend with live music, a playground and interesting flea market. The sausage and brats were amazing also.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
It is always interesting how nature intersects with our human constructions. I remember seeing pigeon nests as a child tucked away in I beams in the skyway in downtown St. Paul. More recently hawk’s nests on electrical poles along the highway. But this year we have our own story.
The children have been anxiously waiting for the snow to melt, then there were the cars and tractors in the way, finally this weekend the hoop was clear but we noticed something interesting.
We had noticed a bird flying back and forth. I knew what it was but honestly had never seen a nest before. We are trying very hard to hold back our curiosity and not disturb them too much but we had to take just a quick peek. The children we completely amazed and I was too. I have never seen a bird nest up close and personal and in use. So we have all agreed that there will be no basketball until those little babies move all and we are anxiously watching (from a distance most of the time) the progress they make. So many lessons,
How do birds make nests? We recognize much of the building material.
How long for baby birds to hatch and Mature? Still working on that
Also learning how to observe but not disturb and how to be considerate of even the smallest creatures. On a side note with all this rain we are learning a lot about worm saving. Yes bird saving and worm saving don’t really go together but that can be a lesson for another day.
There has been a lot on my mind lately. I don’t know if it is the uncertain economy catching up with local foods, a flux of new CSAs or crazy weather making consumers doubt the CSA model but our CSAs numbers are way down. I am honestly scrambling. Trying to figure out how we might make ends meet this year and if we will be able to afford to farm next year. As much as I try to keep this space positive there is so much uncertainty right now and it is weighing on me. It seems agriculture across the board is feeling the hit. My friends that raise goats are struggling. My friends that run CSAs are struggling. Anyone I know who is trying to make a way for themselves is struggling.
Luckily I have a bit of a retreat–the barn. I have said before I am a bit of a responsibility junky. I love caring for people, animals, things, a place. And that is just the life I get to live. Too bad you don’t get paid to live this life. Oh well, struggles make us stronger right?
So come with me on a little far tour.
Contentment among the animals.
Mavis bottle feeding Miracle for one of the last times. Miracle will be going to a new home next week. thanks Michelle!
Just like children baby goats (kids) find the funniest things entertaining. This tube is a favorite.
Don’t stick your tongue out young man.
Flower likes to keep track of everyone.
So yes there are plenty of good things going on in the barn. If you would like a quick tour of chore time check out our video below.
Anyone who knows me would have to agree I am a bit weird; or as Proeun would say, “crazy in a good way.” But when I found out that this little beauty was going to arrive on our farm today the thought came to me, “her name is Bessie.” I informed the family and while they already know I am a bit crazy they also know the name fits. But let me back up a bit.
This winter I took a Farm Financial Analysis class. I learned all sorts of great things, one thing the course talked about was, “new paint syndrome.” This is a syndrome Proeun and I do not have. We in the past have been all about doing things low-tech, often by hand and we also wanted to be able to pay cash for items used on the farm so we wouldn’t fall into a trap of debt.
However running 40 acres without a reliable tractor is a bit difficult to say the least. You must either hire out some of the labor like tilling or seeding for cover crops, (which is expensive and you are working with someone else’s schedule which is often not the best) or use time consuming hand tools that just don’t hold up that well under all the pressure.
As we prepare for organic certification we discovered other issues, like tractors that have been used in conventional fields must be thoroughly washed before they are used in organic fields. This may be difficult for anyone we would hire to work our fields.
So we talked about it and discussed ALOT and really did a lot of soul searching whether a big purchase like this would be good for the overall farm and we decided that it would. It would allow us to mechanize more of our farm, and therefore free up time for things like crop and soil improvement as well as just quality of life stuff. We are totally an outdoor family, but during the summer have little time to enjoy it. We live just miles from Proeun’s all time favorite fishing spot and we have been there 3 times since moving in. So we are really excited about Bessie. She means a lot to us, she is more then just a tractor.
We have a special thanks to Agstar for believing in us and making it possible for us to get Bessie. Our loan officer normally works with much bigger loans, like in the $12M range (talk about new paint) but told us he much prefers to do loans like ours, “because they make a huge difference to family’s and really change their life.” Thank-you for changing our life. And thank-you to all our CSA members past present and future who support our farm. We still have some shares available this year.
I am pretty sure I have said before that I wasn’t at all enthused about the idea of marrying a hunter. Luckily for our 4 children the good qualities outweighed what I percieved at the time to be negatives. However over time as I have interacted with my husband, his family and other hunters I have found that most of them operate from a deep respect for the natural world and the natural order of things. I have learned that conservation projects take money and most often that money comes from hunters. Our DNR does not operate without funds from hunters.
Anyway enough of my soapbox. I have to say I really enjoy venison and wild game. While due to the birth of our 4th baby Proeun did not get to actually participate in the hunt this year, our family brought home 5 deer after nothing for the past 2 years.
Monday was butchering day and since then we have enjoyed venison 4 ways.
The first and I promise the most controversial was “al dente” as Proeun put it. Yes basically raw venison tenderloin marinated with lime, salt, hot peppers and cilantro. As Proeun’s uncle prepared it I heard Proeun telling him, “oh she’ll try it,” This as my brother-in-law ran from the room to hide. I honestly was steaming thinking “how can my husband ask me to try this in front of people, especially the children.” See we had decided that the children would be free to try foods hopefully without us projecting our negative feelings onto them. So often I have to grin and bear it and sometimes discover I like it but if I don’t the children normally do.
So that is what I did and you know it was really good. I ate it with heaping spoons of jasmine rice to cut down on the rawness but the flavor was good and meat melt in your mouth. My midwife Tracy said, “your body was probably really craving it,” speaking of all the iron I am supposed to be eating.
Next there was hot pot with venison, shrimp, squid and a host veggies.
Here Avril and Proeun chop veggies for venison sausage–another hit. and our 4th way this week venison jerky. Yes my husband is a pretty good cook. Looks like I will have to hone my skills cooking wild game.