Monthly Archives: March 2014

A Tractor named Bessie

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.

Praise for Grandmas

I am blessed in more ways then I can count. But for this post I will focus on the amazing women in my life who taught me everything I know. I have learned about several folk schools over the years. I have yet to take a class at any since most of the “local” ones I know of are still a bit of a hike and logistics and nursing babies haven’t allowed me to get away. But as I was browsing some of the class offerings I realized I am in a unique and highly valued (by me!) position of having many of these skills passed down from generation to generation. My mother taught me and my grandmother taught her and occasionally me skills like baking bread, making food from scratch, sewing, knitting, embroidery, crochet and some gardening. I remember my grandmother taught me to eat green beans right from the garden, just wipe off any dirt.

Once we all–me, my mother and grandmother, took a class together on tatting but I couldn’t quite get the hang of it, maybe I will have to have my mother reteach me.

Here we all are shortly after Avril was born. On an interesting note we are all the first daughters of our families. At least I find things like that interesting.

Shortly after this picture was taken Proeun and I decided we were going to farm. We were living in St. Paul at the time and got our chicken permit. We went to a feed store to pick out some chicks, one was a Rhode Island Red. I was telling my grandmother and asking if she wanted to see our chickens and she said, “honey I have seen chickens before.”

Of course she has, she grew up on a farm in western Minnesota. Now I had another way to connect with her as we talked about farming and planting and cooking good old fashioned health food straight from the farm. Turns out she raised Rhode Island Reds

I will always remember my grandmother knitting. Often it was cotton dishclothes. I have gone through more of these then I can count. They are literally the best dishclothes. Recently I was noticing my supply was dwindling. I was talking with my mom and she said grandma can’t remember how to knit them anymore. My mom had figured out the pattern and wrote it down for grandma but still it was a bit much. So my current dishclothes were knit by my mother, I likely will not have anymore knit my grandmother.

And  just yesterday I finished my first one. I noticed mistakes and I am definitely not the woman my grandmother and mother are but I feel so blessed for all the little connections that bind us together even if it is a dishcloth. I have seen other patterns I might try but this one will always connect me to my grandma.

So thankful for all these amazing women have taught me.

For those of you who are interested

Grandma’s dishcloths

Cotton yarn and needles 7-10 depending on how tight you want it.

Cast on 4 knit 2 or 3 rows.
On the next row knit 2, then yarn over and knit to end of the row.
Continue in this way until you have gotten to widest point you want, you will be increasing one every row.
Once you get to the widest point you can begin decreasing. So knit 2, yarn over, knit 2 together, knit to 5 stitches from the end knit 2 together, then knit remaining stitches.
When you get to 6 stitches on needles knit 2, yarn over, knit 2 together and knit to end of row.
Next row, knit 2, knit 2 together, knit to end of row.
Next row knit.
Next row, bind off.

Cats to the Rescue

I am a cat person. I have lived with cats nearly my whole life until I married and spent the first 3 or 4 years of my married life trying to be a dog person. I do love our dogs, but I am not a dog person. You know those online quizzes that ask what kind of animal you would be, well I would be a cat, hands down, no questions. If cat is not an option then I have to think about it a bit more.

I am also an introvert and cats are the ultimate introvert. When Proeun and I were first dating he said that one of the things he loved about me is that I didn’t “need” him, I “wanted” him. Anyone who has had a cat know they don’t need us. But when they want us it feels pretty good.

In this post I write about how cats joined our family again. That was about 6 years ago. Then when we moved to our farm 5 cats came with the property, these were outdoor cats, and unfortunately a year later there was only one left. 2 died, one hit by a car and one just died, one got chased away and one just left and never came back.

In the fall we were starting to see more rodents around, getting ready for winter and we only had one outdoor cat. I was beginning to see how useful they were in addition to fun. So 2 kittens joined our farm from a neighboring farm.

This spring though we have 4 very different additions. We were contacted by a feral cat rescue in St. Paul, they were looking to rehome some cats that were not particularly social and thought a farm might be a good fit. I thought so also so for 4 weeks ago tomorrow 4 cats joined our family. They are not sure what to think about us yet and rehoming adult cats can be tricky. But these four have been doing quite well.

These 2, a male and a female came from a home with a lot of cats. The owner died and they needed a new home, Julie and Leo. 

This little guy was living in a culvert outside a McDonald’s on the Eastside of St. Paul. Somewhere along the way he lost a paw. But he is adjusting just fine to life on the farm. Lord Byron is his name.

This guy lived in a shelter and needed a new home, desperately. Now he is part of the farm family. Salmon is his name.

The children were a little disappointed they don’t like to cuddle but we have our indoor cats for that. I am just happy that they seem to be settling in and enjoying a little freedom. For the first couple of weeks they lived in carriers from the rescue. Now they are roaming the workroom getting more used to us and the freedom. Next week they will be released into our pole building.

I have to admit it has been very rewarding bringing them here. This is one of the things that I wanted to do when we had more space, provide a home for animals in need of one. So welcome to our farm.

If you are interested in adopting pets, check out Pet Project Rescue.

Sustainability on the Farm

I had a different post planned for today. I was going to talk about how wonderful the sun feels and how all of us are just soaking it up. I was going to describe playing outside as a family and the anticipation of spring. I was going to tell you how the children have been singing about spring and summer for 3 days now and how glad I am that it looks like this winter will be different from the last (when we had significant snow fall on May 2!).

But I opened my inbox and was floored. Before I begin I have to say that this is not a political blog. I strive to stay in the positive, but sometimes I must speak. I belong to several yahoo groups that are devoted to local, nutrient dense foods. On one of them I read this

    “I will also say that when it comes to our community supporting the Local Raw Milk Producers I think it would behoove as many of us here to throw some financial support to the Cindy & Gary H____ family, the Maiden Rock goat dairy. . .  They have been clobbered with a back-breaking loss of their nanny goats due to being unable to feed and support them as well as they needed to be nourished. Nor could they afford medical care for their goats when they started dying of illness. By offering milk, yogurt and cheese to our community at a price below sustainability (all of it with 100% good-intentioned effort, of course) they are broke, and broken-hearted. There is no way they can continue their wonderful dairy unless something happens to intervene. They have supported “our community” with amazingly wholesome and delicious milk and cheeses for many years, and they have worked day and night to produce nutrient-dense food for us, now it would be a Godsend if our community could return the favor. I am donating my professional time and medicines to help, and help is in place now, but they still need money to rebuild their herd back up. In the past few weeks, they have lost 22 of their 30 milking nanny goats. This is the kind of farm family we so desperately need. Please help. Perhaps you would be able to buy them a female goat! emphasis mine.

Last fall I heard about another farmer that had worked for years to bring a specialty meat product to the market. It was amazing, but he could not sell it for a sustainable price and he had to sell off his herd and lost his farm to foreclosure. He is now living in an apartment.

Before you think I am so good at spending locally I have to admit that recently I purchased a bunch of cloth diapers on line. Someone had recommended a particular brand to me and the price was well below what I had been seeing. So I purchased enough for a good rotation. (I did purchase from a family owned boutique) but when I got the diapers I saw that they were made in China. While I feel good about supporting the family boutique I would have preferred a product that was more local but honestly I opted for price.

So I get it, times are tough, but it is so so discouraging to hear stories like the 2 above. They are not unique. My sister is also self employed and we were talking about how different it is from employment. One of the really negative things is you often feel like a beggar. But the fact of the matter is that our dollars all support something, and we need to think about what we want to support.

I was watching the film Bitter Seeds about how farmers in India are losing the ability to chose what seeds they grow and I was so thankful for the many choices we have in this country. But I am reminded without the support of the community buying all those seeds those companies would not stay in business. Yes if we want to have choices we need to support the companies and families that bring us those options. Please support local agriculture and businesses.