Category Archives: Farm

Page 3 of Archives

Lacefield Farms Blog
Friday, 11 November 2011
Feather, cont
Mood:  a-ok
If you enjoyed the saga of Feather, you may be interested in the follow-up. Yesterday, Feather stuck close to his mama and that night she decided to move them both to the big girl house. They are now in the chicken mobile. The picture here is of Feather and his mom (Silky) a few weeks ago when he was still an egg with legs.

This morning, the RI red again set up a squawk. I was much more casual about it (and fully awake) so I strolled out to see if it was another squirrel. It wasn’t. Now I know why she was so upset. A chicken hawk was perched on her pen gazing fondly down at her chicken nuggets. It flew away as I got close. I guess I need to listen to her when she yells because she knows what she is talking about!


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 8:03 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 11 November 2011 8:15 AM EST
Thursday, 10 November 2011
The saga of Feather
Mood:  accident prone
Feather’s story starts about 5 weeks ago. One of the RI red crosses was sitting on 10 eggs. If you know about chickens, you know that the eggs under a hen are rarely all hers. The other hens will add to her collection of eggs as long as she will let them. At some point, the hen will have had enough and will not let them add any more. Then, the long wait begins. For 3 weeks the hen will sit in a meditative state leaving the nest only once a day for 20-30 minutes to grab a quick bite and take care of “business.” Then, she is back on the nest. Anyone who has endured 3 weeks of “bedrest” can surely identify with the patience required.

As this particular hen’s eggs began to hatch, tragedy struck. The fire ants found her. Usually we are good about moving the hen’s cage daily so that the ants aren’t a problem but we got busy, or lazy, or forgot. When we checked on her, two chicks had been killed and one hatching egg was already invaded. We moved her and hoped for the best. She hatched all but 2 of the remaining eggs.

At this point, the first chicks hatched were beginning to get hungry so she needed to tend to them. In addition, she didn’t really trust that the ants were gone. So, she took her hatched chicks and left the nest–leaving behind the two unhatched eggs.

Meanwhile, in the back of an old pickup not so far away, a lonely black hen was hoping to hatch an egg of her own. She wanted badly to be a mama but it was getting late in the season–cold would be coming soon and it would be hard to keep chicks warm. In addition, we already had too many chickens. So, we took the eggs from under her each day. We didn’t feed her. We didn’t give her water. We did what we could do to convince her that now was not the time. Regardless, she  sat patiently on her remaining ceramic egg and waited.

Back to the two eggs in the now empty nest. The day was reasonably warm–but not warm enough for two ready-to-hatch eggs. As the day went on, we knew the chicks inside were dying. Suddenly, near the end of the day (we are slow!), it hit us. We knew of a hen who would welcome these eggs!!

We moved the eggs immediately. The next morning we checked the back of the pickup and found that one of the eggs had hatched. Feather was born.

That little black hen loved Feather. She called him and taught him to scratch. She showed him how to flap and jump up as high as he could to escape predators. She taught him to eat bugs and pick the best stuff out of the feed.  But, heaven knows, we really didn’t need another family to take care of. Each hen and chicks requires daily care. They require moving to fresh grass (and away from ants.) They require daily watering and feeding. The require their own space. We had been doing this with numerous families all summer and we were ready to be done.

Along came Feather’s savior–Boots. Boots offered to pay the $45 it takes to feed a hen and a chick for one year. She made it so much easier for us to justify the daily work of keeping Feather. And, she gave Feather his name.

That was Feather’s story until this morning.

Early this morning. as I was thinking about summoning the energy to make coffee, I heard that squawking that any farmer (or caretaker of the young and vulnerable) always has one ear tuned to hear. Something clearly had one of the hens–she was screaming as only a chicken can scream. I dashed out the door–white robe flapping in the 45 degree breeze and bare feet already turning pink from the cold–to realize it was the RI red mama. She was on top of the nest box screaming at the top of her lungs. I quickly looked around for the predator–nothing. Of course, it didn’t help that I hadn’t yet put on my glasses. Next, I looked for her babies. Last year we had lost an entire clutch of chicks to a predator that was never identified so I expected the worst.

This particular RI red was raised by me so despite the fact that she is a mean little mama to anything that comes near her babies, she trusts me. As she slowly calmed down, first two and then all of her babies came out of their hiding places–under the nesting box, squashed down low and small in the corner, behind the water.

Suddenly, the little black hen started screaming. By then John had joined me. We looked in her cage and realized Feather was gone. Agitated, the little black hen ran back and forth across her cage, screaming for Feather. We let her out and she headed first for the woods. When the fence blocked her, she veered out across the garden still screaming for Feather.

We searched for evidence of Feather. Unfortunately, with so many chickens ranging the property, there were plenty of feathers–but no Feather.

We next searched the cage for evidence of the predator. Nothing. We went back inside so I could better dress for a full-on investigation. Meanwhile, the little black hen sat huddled under a tree crooning quietly to herself. Some people do not believe animals mourn. I am sure they do–but they are pragmatic. They know there is a limit to how long they can safely live outside of the moment.

We searched every bit of that cage. We thought perhaps a snake had wiggled in, crushed poor little Feather, and then squeezed back out. But even that should have left some evidence in the chicken wire. I began to think about how I was going to tell Boots. Then, as we turned away to begin the morning chores, I saw a small yellow blur in the cage, It was Feather.

The reunion between mama and baby was a joy to see. I am still smiling.

So, where was Feather? What happened? What we believe happened was something, perhaps a squirrel–perhaps something worse–threatened the family of the RI red. She was a bit close to the woods. She set off the alarm. The babies did what wild babies are supposed to do–they hid. Since Feather and his mom are near the RI red family, Feather also hid. There was a wadded single sheet of newspaper in the corner of the pen that had been in the nest to help keep it warm. Perhaps he hid under it. When his mama checked for him, she didn’t find him. That’s when she set off the alarm.

And, THAT is the saga of Feather.


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 8:03 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, 10 November 2011 9:02 AM EST
Saturday, 24 September 2011
Life
Weeding–like other repetitive tasks such as doing dishes, mowing lawns, and cleaning–provides an opportunity for reflection. Right now, I find I have a lot to reflect about.

Two days ago I quit a job that, for me, was toxic. Like a bad marriage where each person brings out the worst in the other, it became clear there was no saving the situation. I’ve never thought of myself as a quitter but I knew it was the right decision when I felt the flood of relief that comes with choosing the right path.

Today, I was in a reflective mood as I was pulling up coffee weed in the pasture. Coffee weed is invasive and toxic to cattle. Unfortunately, this year we have a LOT of it. Slowly, I realized that all around the coffee weed, around every plant I pulled, was hairy indigo. Hairy indigo is also slightly invasive but it is a legume which makes it a good source of protein for cattle and nitrogen for the soil. I realized, ironically (don’t you think), the same conditions that lent themselves to a proliferation of toxic coffee weed also led to the growth of beneficial hairy indigo.

I take great comfort in knowing that.


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 9:18 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 24 September 2011 9:44 AM EDT
Wednesday, 10 August 2011
What we did on “summer vacation”
Mood:  cool
It has been a busy month!! While John continues to grow our farm outside in the 100 degree heat, I have been in AC finishing my patient care certificate, finishing teaching at Waycross College, acquiring a new teaching position at Florida Gateway College in Lake City, and moving. Now I am in Michigan at a technology conference. Check out my first ever camtasia video: Farm Web Tour
COOL!

 

Posted by Roberta or John at 10:13 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 10 August 2011 10:20 AM EDT
Monday, 13 June 2011
beauty
We haven’t had any rain for more than a month. None. No rain. Before the 3/4’s of an inch we had a month ago, we were having little rain. That is a problem on a sustainable farm because our plants are expected to make it with the advantages we have given them–planting them in the right place and using heritage varieties that have passed the test of time. For the most part, our plants are doing what we are asking of them.

Today we were picking blueberries and I was thinking about these plants and how the fruit compares to last year. The plants look stressed but they are alive. Because they are stressed, the fruit is not as fat as it was last year. I was dissatisfied. And suddenly it hit me. I was judging the fruit by its looks–a lesson I should have learned in high school. Because here is the thing. Looks are not a reliable indicator of quality. The berries are smaller this year but are they less nutritious? Do they have fewer vitamins and minerals? Are they lower in quality? I suspect that the struggles they are facing have done for the fruit what struggles do for all of us. They make is even better. I would put my blueberries up against any acai fighting its way to survival anywhere in the world.


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 7:43 PM EDT
Tuesday, 31 May 2011
Friends
It is difficult to see things from someone else’s perspective. It is difficult to even face the fact that there might BE another perspective. That is the beauty of friends–particularly friends who think differently from us–they give us perspective. And, being friends, they don’t hold back.

Dottie said to me the other day that I shouldn’t be doing the business of farming if I don’t love it. She practices what she preaches–she doesn’t love the marketing of yoga so she does not market her yoga studio http://www.suwanneeriveryoga.com/Wink–so I had to take what she was saying to heart. The problem is this. I love farming and a side-effect of that is that if I want to do what I love, I need to be involved with the business end. The question is, is farming sustainable as a profession? I’m not sure of the answer. In my family, we have always worked off-farm to subsidize our farm. Most farmers must do the same. In fact, there is a joke my mom tells:

A priest, a Baptist minister, and a farmer were talking about what they would do if they had a million dollars. The priest said, “I would build an orphanage!” The minister said, “I would fund missionaries!” The farmer said, “I would farm until the money ran out.”

So, where does that leave me? We will try for a year to see if we can do what we love by embracing what we don’t. We will see if we can find our way through the hard challenges of the business end of farming. We will try to find that tricky middle path. 
 

Posted by Roberta or John at 7:57 AM EDT
Wednesday, 18 May 2011
Everything is coming up…zucchini!
We are trying to eat locally and seasonally so lately we have been eating a lot of squash and zucchini. However, John thinks zucchini is a second cousin to tofu in the taste department so I’ve been searching for the ultimate zucchini recipe. In my search, I found this site which I highly recommend to anyone else who has had enough zucchini bread to last a lifetime:http://www.wellcat.com/august/sneak_some_zucchini_onto_your_ne.htm 
 

Posted by Roberta or John at 9:32 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 18 May 2011 10:25 AM EDT
Sunday, 17 April 2011
Life…and death
Mood:  sad
One of the biggest challenges of farming is how frequently death comes up. Before we were so involved with farming, when we dealt with death it was usually something faked on television. It was not so “in your face.”

This weekend something broke into the pen where one of our broody hens had just hatched her chicks. It killed her, and killed all but one of the newly hatched chicks. We were not there but it was clear from all the feathers that the momma hen put up quite a fight. It is inutterably sad…because here’s the thing. According to our neighbor the villian is a mama fox feeding her kits. Unlike television with its black hat and white hat to tell bad from good, we are left unsure how to react to the gray of life that is farming.


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 1:19 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 17 April 2011 1:41 PM EDT
Sunday, 13 March 2011
Thoughts on the new farming
Melissa gave us a great memoir for Christmas: “The Dirty Life: On Farming Food, and Love”, by Kristin Kimball. John read it first; I am just now getting around to it. It has been–like all great reads–the right book at the right time. We are often full of doubt about our farm life so to read that someone else has been down this road–made these same choices–is very affirming. I found this particularly so in a passage about the Kimball’s vision of farm shares, and the challenges of marketing them, on pages 160-162:

“We were offering a full-diet share–including beef, pork, chicken, eggs, milk, vegetables, flours, grains, and dry beans….. We were pitching a radical all-or-nothing, year-round membership model that was untried, even in the most agriculturally progressive pockets of the country. We were asking people to fork over thousands of dollars for the promise of a return that was by no means guaranteed. At the price we were charging, most people in our community couldn’t afford to use our food as a supplement to their usual grocery store haul. They’d have to give up, like I had, that familiar and comforting experience of pushing a cart down an aisle. The central question in the kitchen would change from What do I want? to What is available? The time spent in the kitchen–in planning, in preparing, in cooking–would jump exponentially.

…Maybe most important, farm food itself is totally different from what most people now think of as food: none of those colorful boxed and bagged products, precut, parboiled, ready to eat, and engineered to appeal to our basest desires. We were selling the opposite: naked, unprocessed food, two step from the dirt.

…We’d be asking people to eat things they couldn’t identify and didn’t know how to cook. We found, from giving away samples, that the rich, flavorful Jersey milk I loved so much was just too different from the store-bought kind for some palates to accept, especially if they were used to drinking low-fat or skim. Moreover, we couldn’t offer the kind of consistency that consumers have come to expect from grocery store food. Could we really expect people to change their habits radically, and pay good money for it?”

 

Like the Kimballs, we also have envisioned a whole-diet model where we would provide meat, eggs, milk, fruit, vegetables, sugar (honey), and oil (olive oil.) We also see the same resistance–in ourselves. Do we really want to eat zucchini for the fourth week in a row just because that is what is now available? Do we want to give up eating what we want even though it is out of season? Are we prepared to eat in an organic way by using what we have instead of what our tastebuds tell us they want? And, do we want to put in the time needed to prepare our foods for storage?

We have been only tentatively answering yes to these questions but knowing we are not alone has strengthened that budding feeling that we are on the right track. As Dottie would say, keep a-going.


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 9:06 AM EST
Updated: Sunday, 13 March 2011 9:40 AM EST
Sunday, 27 February 2011
The greenhouse is going!
Mood:  incredulous
Thanks to Melissa (who lit a fire under us), there are now plants growing in the greenhouse.Seedlings growing in the greenhouse. Hopefully we will have Roma tomatoes, sunflowers, squashes, and peppers for Melissa, stuff for our own garden, and plants to sell. Dennis has already offered to buy some of our plants. It’s coming together. Thanks Melissa!! 
 

Posted by Roberta or John at 1:28 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 27 February 2011 1:40 PM EST

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Page 2 of Archives

Lacefield Farms Blog
Saturday, 26 February 2011
Scarcity and Abundance
Mood:  lyrical
Scarcity and abundance. This is what is on my mind these days. In a little over two months, I will go from a job that pays to one that doesn’t. I will move from having healthcare coverage to hoping for the best. No longer will I be making more money than I spend–I will be spending more than I make. Terrifying? What do you think?

In my heart I believe in abundance. But my brain–that part of me that has provided a good living for thirty years–begs to differ. So, here I stand on the precipice with the bungee cord tied to my ankle preparing myself for the jump and repeating again and again, I believe in abundance.


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 7:40 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 27 February 2011 1:37 PM EST
Saturday, 4 December 2010
Let it snow! (Ok, how about if it just gets cold.)
Mood:  happy
We finished the greenhouse today. And, we have a plan for the citrus that lives in the topless hothouse. Last winter the rain and wind demolished one end of the hothouse and our poor greenhouse has been topless since we put it here. But, forced into action by the forecast of a week of weather in the low twenties, we got plastic on the greenhouse and found our plan B for keeping the citrus alive one more year. We are feeling pretty happy with what passes for progress to us.


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 7:55 PM EST
Updated: Saturday, 4 December 2010 8:03 PM EST
Saturday, 18 September 2010
Fall is in the air
Mood:  a-ok
Can you feel it? Can you smell it? Fall is in the air. FINALLY, even though the air is still hot, there is something in the breeze…

I’m back at school and in air conditioning. I struggle to make mathematics relevant. I wrestle with everything else that wants a student’s attention. And then I come home to the farm, to the chickens and the cattle and living in the moment and John. Aaah, I can breathe again.


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 6:11 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 18 September 2010 6:35 PM EDT
Sunday, 25 July 2010
Of pumpkins and other things
Dennis gave us a huge pumpkin that he had grown on his place. Ironic that it did for me what it did for Cinderella–transported me to a bright and shining place. Here’s the story.

If you live nearby, you may have noticed it has been HOT. Not only that, it has also been HUMID. Even sitting on the porch drinking ice tea and rocking in a chair is hot and sweaty work.

This past week in this heat and humidity we have been prepping the land for the coming growth spurt. Now is the time when the citrus, blueberries, and blackberries put on their greenery–the greenery that will hold blossoms in the spring. Therefore, it is important to decrease their competition for nutrients and water. So, we have been busy cutting and pulling weeds. While it feels good to see the plants smile, in this heat the work is taxing. Since we are not using chemicals, all of this work must be done one plant at a time by hand so we have been at it for a while.

Then, like magic, Dennis gave me the pumpkin. Suddenly, I had an excuse to stay in the house. I had a reason to take a break and let me body rest.  Best of all, I got this rest guilt-free because I had to work on that pumpkin. It took four hours to cook, strain, and process that pumpkin. I ended up with 40 cups of pumpkin, seeds saved for next year, slop for the chickens, and pumpkin soup for dinner. (Did I mention that it was HUGE?!)  Today, the bounty (and the break) continues. After morning chores, my mom made pumpkin pie and I made pumpkin bread.

Because of the welcome break from working in the hot fields, I can see again the beauty that surrounds us, the joy of living close to the earth, the immediacy of the rewards for the work we do. I am Cinderella at the ball.


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 12:15 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 25 July 2010 12:43 PM EDT
Thursday, 22 July 2010
Summertime, and the living is…
It’s July already! Where has the summer gone. It’s been a busy, productive season. This summer we added a rear porch/mud room, turned a shed into an office, made an “eggmobile”, painted the roofs of several sheds, put in a garden, raised 26 chicks, reinforced fences, planted a row of blackberries, and maintained our blackberries, blueberries, and fruit trees. We’ve been much luckier this year with rain but of course that means we have also spent more time mowing and weeding.

It’s interesting to me that part of me looks at amazement at what we have accomplished in this heat and humidity but there is also a part that looks at all the things we have yet to accomplish. Daily we remind ourselves to stop and smell the roses along with the manure. We sometimes struggle to remember that we have chosen this way of life.

The other struggle I personally have had is the daily reminder of how little we in this country value the work of farmers. In this country, we have long been blessed with cheap food. The cost of eggs is virtually unchanged in the last 50 years while minimum wage is over 8 times what it was then. (http://www2.census.gov/prod2/statcomp/documents/CT1970p1-06.pdf  Go to page 31.)

This really hit me the last time I went to yoga class where it took two dozen eggs, 4 cups of blueberries, two watermelons, and two dollars to pay for my one yoga class. Since I know how many hours of work all that food represents, to say nothing of the cost of supplies, feed, etc, it is tough not to resent the difference in how we value things. Don’t get me wrong–I’m well aware that teaching yoga involves the cost of training, continuing development, travel, and facilities costs.  It is simply that this is one the many examples of how we undervalue farmers.


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 10:17 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 22 July 2010 10:58 AM EDT
Tuesday, 25 May 2010
Buffalo Girl’s baby
Mood:  sad
Sad news. Buffalo girl had a beautiful little boy calf. Unfortunately, in the process of saving if from ole thunderfoot (Sukie) who came running across the field to see what she had, Buffalo girl stepped on her calf and killed it. So quickly, life seeped out and was gone.


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 7:25 AM EDT
Wednesday, 19 May 2010
Of cowbirds and life…
Mood:  quizzical
As I was weeding the blackberries, I was contemplating the state of our farm. First up, the bug situation. This past week, our neighbor to the south put chicken manure on his fields which unleashed a tsunami of bugs since the piles of litter retrieved from chicken houses are bug breeding grounds. Our poor little cows were already being attacked but this simply overwhelmed them.

What we had hoped was that we were getting a handle on the bug situation by letting nature reach equilibrium. The cattle were beginning to understand that the cowbirds were there to eat the bugs and were learning to let the birds land on their backs or walk along side. The chickens were beginning to dig through the cow patties for insect larva–interrupting the life cycle of the bugs. When the dragonflies visited in the evening, nearly every gnat was devoured.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then came the neighbors chicken litter so now we wait, again, for the balance of nature. Balance; somedays it’s easy and some days not. We had to seek balance with the blackberries. Last year my mom and I went on a campaign to remove the maidencane from the blackberry patch. This involved bending down on our knees and patiently digging out each of the bamboo-like underground tendrils that had woven in among the blackberry roots.  Three months later, the blackberries still hadn’t recovered but the maidencane looked happier than ever as it reinvaded the disturbed beds. This year, I pulled some and mowed the rest. The blackberries, though still having to compete, seem happier. Balance.

The thing about farming is that there is ALWAYS something that needs to be done NOW. Because of this, the house and yard are generally the last things that get attention. The growing things must come first. Today it was adding another strand of barbed wire to the fence between us and the Meltons because the fence was designed for 5 foot cattle, not 3-4 foot cattle. Today it was harrowing the earth so we could get the Tif9 seed in the ground since we FINALLY had rain. Today it was taking the chicks on a field trip so they could be exposed to grass and bugs–the diet we want them to have as adults. But I did get a batch of cookies and big pan of lasagna made. Balance.

Which leads to my second thought. We have become so conditioned by marketing campaigns that we seem to have little tolerance for houses and yards that are not the first priority. I often wish we had that beautiful little farmhouse with the lovely cottage garden that I see in my mind. I don’t envision bahia grass seed heads and a mobile home. I know I’m not alone. There is something almost suspect about food that is grown on such a farm. We know from the ad campaigns that the best farms have white clapboard farmhouses and picket fences–though of course the reality is cramped and unsanitary stockyards. Intellectually I understand that having a small footprint on the earth means living as we are now–700 square feet of recycled living and grass that is mowed only because I can’t stand it any longer. I understand but I struggle to balance that with the vision we have all been fed. I struggle to find my balance.


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 7:36 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 19 May 2010 8:07 PM EDT
Friday, 14 May 2010
Farm babies!
Mood:  celebratory
I can’t believe it has been MONTHS since I wrote anything!! Where does the time go?!

We have been VERY busy. We are trying to stay up with the weeds (pulled by hand), the caterpillars and other leaf-eaters (picked off by hand), the garden (started from seeds), and the new fence and building construction (done by us-with occasional help from Danny and Eric.) Farming sustainably is constant and continuous work.

But, it is also great fun! Yesterday was the birthday for this year’s first batch of chicks. We are the parents to this group but we have 3 broody hens and one Dexter cow who will (hopefully) be joining us soon. I love watching the chicks grow. Yesterday was all about sleeping. They could teach us all a thing or two about deep relaxation. Today, however, it is all about running. What fun!


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 10:19 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 19 May 2010 7:35 PM EDT
Wednesday, 17 March 2010
Spring Break–and so much catching up to do!!
Now Playing: FINALLY–the hothouse update.
Things have been hopping here at Lacefield farms.

First, I am finally ready to post pictures and video (thanks Walter!) of the hothouse raising–just in time to tell you the sad story of our hothouse experience.

Pulling hothouse Plastic

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second, we will get our cows on Friday–YEAH!! But, I will wait to tell more about that after Friday when we have pics.

Third, the chickens are popping out eggs, we are on track for pastured poultry in April, we’re getting enough rain, the greens did well this year, the potatoes are in, the fields have been limed, the blackberries, apples, and pears are almost weeded, trimmed, pruned, and the corral is ready for the cows (but needs a name. OK? Laughing)

 

Now for the hothouse update: The day we pulled the plastic was a happy (though VERY cold) day with a real sense of accomplishment.  The sad news is that the fierce rain we had in February collected in a lose spot in the plastic. The weight busted 4 supports and pulled in the end of the greenhouse. We are now working on plan B.


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 6:18 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 17 March 2010 7:58 PM EDT
Saturday, 6 February 2010
Maddie
This entry is dedicated to Maddie who actually reads our blog.

It has been a tough winter so far. The citrus and pineapples have taken a hard hit but seem to be surviving. According to IFAS, it’s been the longest extended cold period in north Flordia for 200 years. We will upload pictures of the hot house and tell more about that in our next entry.

We have finished the corral and loading dock. We hope to have our heifers this spring. Moo. In March, we hope to begin with the pastured poultry. We need to get some seeds started soon and prepare the ground for the potatoes. There’s a lot to do and a lot more to learn but we are still having fun.


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 9:00 PM EST

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Page One of Archives

Lacefield Farms Blog
Thursday, 12 November 2009
The Orangery
Mood:  on fire
The hothouse (I like to call it the orangery because of all the citrus in it and in honor of my beloved Regency romances) is coming along! I’ll try to get a picture uploaded this week. The temperatures are finally starting to dip so it isn’t a moment too soon! 
 

Posted by Roberta or John at 10:20 PM EST
Sunday, 11 October 2009
Fall Bounty
With the HOT (think August) temperatures, some of our summer produce is lingering on. I love the colors of this fall bounty.

That is the good news. The bad news is the heat and lack of rain is destroying our traditional fall crop of cole-family vegetables (greens, brussel sprouts, kale, etc)

John finished the chickhouse so in the spring we will be ready for grass-fed broilers. We are on the lookout for a heifer to raise up to be milked. Our big push now, believe it or not, is the hothouse because LAST October we had a freeze. While that’s nearly impossible to imagine, we must be ready. Our hothouse is already loaded with citrus trees and pineapple plants. I call it the “orangery” and can hardly wait for those cold winter days when being in there will be a joy.


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 11:25 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 11 October 2009 11:36 AM EDT
Monday, 14 September 2009
Another failed journal….
Mood:  a-ok
The farm blog is going the way of all previous attempts at journals and diaries–starts with a bang and then, nothing.

BUT, I’m BAAACCK–trying again. I’m going to blame it on work.

So, here’s the update. All 3 chicks are thriving. One is definitely a rooster (bummer) but one looks like it is definitely a hen.

The processing kitchen is looking good. We are taking a break from it because we MUST finish the hothouse next but the kitchen should get finished this winter. I’ll attach pics soon.

Meanwhile, I can’t help but think about a blog my nephew Drew mentioned in HIS blog. The aforementioned blogger said that blogs actually hurt communication because we don’t have anything to talk about when we meet up if we’ve already said it all in our blogs. Thus, perhaps being a failed journal-er is a good thing–I’ll have something to tell you that you haven’t yet heard when next we meet!!


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 11:17 AM EDT
Friday, 3 July 2009
Today is your birthday…
It’s been quite a week. Still VERY hot. And, we had both our first farm birth and first farm death.

On June 30th, our first chick was born.

“Golden Girl”, who initially didn’t seem like an attentive mom, pulled it off. Despite our country’s unofficial national breeding program designed to eliminate motherhood and replace it with incubator-hood, this hen found the instincts to be successful. Meanwhile, her colleague didn’t do as well. “Carnivore Woman” as we now call her, ate 6 of her embryos. The last one is now sitting under another hen that just went broody. If it doesn’t hatch in the next 3 days, her clutch will be a complete loss. But the death of the embryos is not the only death. Golden Girl had one more egg hatch yesterday. I saw the little beak protrude from the shell in the morning. We then went into town. By the time we got home in the afternoon, the chick was completely out of the shell but the hen was ignoring it and it was getting cold. I warmed it up and put it back but the hen accidentally stepped on it while keeping up with her first born. I took it out of the pen and put it on a heating pad but it was dead this morning. It was underweight and may not have been healthy–this may be why she gave it up. Or, it could be the fact that she was a new mom and her instincts aren’t fully developed. This, of course, is why most farms have taken the mama out of the equation. Out of 13 eggs, and two hens, we have one chick. However, our hope is that we can selectively brood “motherhood” back into our chickens. One success story is a beginning.

Update: After the new mom abandoned her un-hatched eggs, we put them on a third hen who had just gone broody. She successfully hatched the two eggs and now has two chicks. She’s a bit confused that  a “sit” of an expected 3 weeks lasted only 3 days, but she seems to be adjusting.


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 9:12 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 5 July 2009 8:23 PM EDT
Friday, 26 June 2009
Under the Tuscan Sun
Mood:  lucky
We’ve been working on our “processing shed”. When finished, this will be the kitchen where we will process the food from the farm. It’s coming along nicely and hopefully we can finish it before August when I need to be thinking about preparing for classes. Meanwhile, we’ve been eating most of what we harvest. Today for lunch we had a one-pot meal of basmati rice, field peas (courtesy of our neighbor, Mr. Melton), a bit of curry powder, and a dash of chili pepper, a slice of bacon, and topped with fresh tomatoes (for me, not John) and sliced almonds. It was scrumptious. It reminded me of something the author of “Under the Tuscan Sun” (the book, NOT the movie) said about cooking with fresh ingredients–it’s so easy to get it right when the ingredients have such great favor!

Update on the broody chickens:   One of the chickens has accidentally knocked two eggs out of her nest and cracked the eggs. Both had embryos in them. The other chicken has cannibalized three of her eggs. I don’t know whether they were viable. There is one week left until their “due date.”


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 1:08 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 26 June 2009 1:19 PM EDT
Tuesday, 16 June 2009
It takes a village…
Farming is hard work. It’s hot. Today the temperature is in the high ’90’s–as is the humidity.  The gnats are annoying. As we manuever a 4’x8′ sheet of 7/16″ OSB over our heads, I wonder why we are doing this.

One thing that does keep us going is the support we have. Sharon, Janice, Susan, and Tom have been long-time egg-buyers–even after the peanut butter debacle. Boots, Dottie, and Dennis were all out there in the damp cold as we set out 400 blueberry starts. Before we bought a tractor, John V twice used his 4-wheel drive to help us out of a sticky situation. To the delight of the chickens, Boots brings day-old bread and stale crackers. Asa and Lucinda, Carol and Bud, have given us coffee cans, margarine tubs, and plastic detergent bottles that we have reused in a myriad of ways. Asa’s old 1-bys are the trim in our processing shed along with Randy and Melissa’s old window. We’ve used Dennis’s front-end loader to save our backs. Merry and Walter, Deb and Krys, Eric and Becky, John and Boots, Melissa, have all given us plants. Ken and Frieda have given us all kinds of materials and advice. My mom Arlene, along with Joe when he was able, has been incredible. Aong with all the other things my mom has done for us, she’s the painting queen.

Of course, this (partial) list doesn’t answer the question of why we are doing this. To know that, you need to join us at the end of a hard day as we sit on the front porch, gaze out over the farm, drink a cool beer, and count our blessings. We’ll save a rocker for you.

 


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 3:47 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 17 June 2009 11:12 PM EDT
Saturday, 13 June 2009
Where’s the beef?
A couple of days ago Walter said something that I’ve been thinking about since. He said that he keeps hearing about the farm but is wondering when he’ll see anything from it. Good question.

We ARE starting to see some benefit from all our work. We have had a fairly steady 4-eggs-per-day, lots of blackberries, about 5 pounds of blueberries so far, 3-4 yellow squash per week for several weeks now, assorted greens. The problem is two-fold: quantity and consistency. This is why we can’t use the farmers market and why we feel we can’t yet offer anything for sale.

So, how do we deal with these problems? Why don’t we plant more? What’s the hold-up? The reason is that we are still feeling our way into making sustainability work. We are making good progress with the chickens and hope to offer pastured poultry in the fall. The produce is another issue. Here is a recent example of the hold-up: a possible way to deal with the quantity issue is to have value-added products (such as preserved foods and jams) that can be accumulated into enough volume so that it makes sense to take it to the farmers market.  For that, we need a certified kitchen which we are in the process of building. But we want to use the graywater to water the gardens–rather than the non-sustainable practice of putting the wastewater into a giant holding tank and then pumping well water out of the aquafer. However, this is not the standard approach so we have to figure out what can be allowed and how to get permission to do this. Ironically, many of the officials we have queried about this seem to believe we are trying to get away with something–when the fact is that it is more expensive initially to be sustainable. Pumping water from the aquafer is, we have been assured, CHEAP. what IS our problem?!

Note the pictures below of our current watering system. The problem with this system is that it is a capture system that requires rain–but we only need it when it DOESN’T rain. Sometimes we run out.

This is just one small piece of the puzzle. There is also the issue of tryng to build our kitchen sustainably with as much recycled and reconfigured materials as possible. This type of construction generally takes more time. Another piece of this sustainable puzzle is that in the past most of my preserving has involved freezing because I like the taste and texture better than canning. However, freezing is not sustainable while traditional canning is. So, I need to learn how to preserve food sustainably.

All of this “stuff” takes time–time away from weeding, hoeing, tilling, tending a garden without chemicals. But all of this stuff is part of the sustainable journey and stuff we need to figure out before we can begin to make a profit and share with Walter the fruits–and vegetables–of our labor.


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 12:34 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 15 June 2009 10:27 AM EDT
Monday, 8 June 2009
Sustainable farming
The wonderful thing about farming sustainably is that again and again I have the opportunity to see that for everything there is a purpose. Three recent examples stand out.

First, there is betony weed. I had disliked this weed for quite a while because it is so hard to irradicate–it grows back from any small piece left in the garden. But then Judy Pruitt in my Master Gardener class told me pickles can be made from it. I did that and had the most disgusting grub-like but delicious bread-n-butter pickles. Then I tried eating it raw. It tastes like a very fresh water chestnut! WONDERFUL! Now I look forward to digging up betony.

Second, fire ants. Fire ants are the bane of my farming existence. I react badly to the bites and am generally covered with either scabs or recent scars from fire ants. They swarm onto you before the first one stings so that by the time I know they are there, it’s too late to successfully defend myself. I couldn’t imagine looking at them with anything other than fear and loathing. Well, that hasn’t changed entirely but I feel a bit better about them since I recently found some devouring an orange dog caterpillar. The “orange dog” looks like a bird dropping and can set back the growth of a young tree. For once I was actually glad to see the fire ants because they had dealt with this threat to our young trees before I was even aware it was there. So, while I still do not love the fire ants, I can at least acknowledge they serve a purpose.

The most recent example (but not likely the last) is pigweed. Pigweed is a prolific weed in the amaranth family that loves manure. Our variety is the spiny pigweed which has thorns on it. Pulling it out of the ground requires gloves. It is EVERYWHERE this year. But, I recently found out that it is edible. It is one of the few pot greens that grows in the summer around here. Not only that, it is a plant that will pull nutrients up out of deep soil and into the topsoil–important in an area that has too much  sand. So, I no longer loathe it but instead welcome its presence. While I still pull it out of the ground, I no longer worry that I must obsessively irradicate it.

All of this is a valuable lesson. We all have weeds and things that bite and sting in our environment. We face them every day. It is a wonderful relief to know that they all serve some purpose–now if I can only figure out the reason for those spiny cactus!!


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 9:04 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 13 June 2009 12:33 PM EDT
Tuesday, 2 June 2009
Finally…
Well, finally I have started the farm blog. Many times as I have been enjoying the meditation we refer to as “weeding”, I’ve thought about a blog. Something about the random thoughts that appear during weeding remind me of many of the blogs I have read. So, finally, I’ve taken the first steps in making it happen. Pardon me while, feeling a bit self-conscious, I begin.

Last evening was a beautiful evening–one of those where the temperature is perfect and there is just enough breeze to keep the bugs at bay. We were enjoying the company of the kitties and sitting out among the herb beds when we noticed that Scooter was wallowing in the catnip.  

John got up and put a fence around it so Scooter wouldn’t completely destroy it. The next thing we knew, Scooter had climbed inside the fence and after battling the forces of evil (known as Macbama),

 

enjoyed the fruits of his illicit labor.


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 7:42 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 2 June 2009 8:36 AM EDT

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