Welcome to our blog!

The “welcome” message in the title is a welcome both for you and for us!

We have relocated the website and blog to A Small Orange--a company recommended by my nephew Drew. Moving has been a LOT of work but it was time. The old Tripod/Lycos site that had held me in good stead since the nineties was a wonderful starter home but it was time to move.

Many things got tossed out but something we definitely wanted to move with us was our blog because it had become a journal of our challenges and successes. I have cut and paste the pages in the previous posts. I am hoping this is enough to keep them visible as we dismantle the old site but, just in case, I have saved all the pics and text.

As we have moved into our new home, I have been forced to learn lots of new terms and programs but if we can be as happy here for the next 20 years as we were in our old home with Tripod, it will all be for good.

Page 6 of Archives (most current)

Lacefield Farms Blog
Sunday, 2 March 2014
Lots of news!
Mood:  energetic
I tried several times in February to post to the blog but something has been up with Tripod–our server. Today I am trying again. Hopefully this time will be successful because I have a lot of stuff to share!

First, recent stuff! We are striving to find balance in the greenhouse. It has been very cold at night (thirties) but the strong March sun means the daytime greenhouse temps are high. Even with supplemental heat, the cold was too much for our poor little pepper starts.  However, the ladybugs have been happy with the warm days and are doing their part to organically and sustainably keep aphids out of the transplants. Thank you dearest bugs!

Oh shoot–tripod is still weird! I can’t upload the great ladybug pic. Back to tech support!


Posted by Roberta or John at 1:40 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 15 April 2014 6:29 PM EDT
Wednesday, 5 February 2014
Sustainable Ag defined
This article resonated with me because it fits my understanding of sustainable agriculture–living within the natural cycles of life.http://foodtank.com/news/2014/01/sustainable-agriculture-often-debated-rarely-understood


Posted by Roberta or John at 9:34 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 2 March 2014 3:17 PM EST
Saturday, 4 January 2014
Ohhh..!
Mood:  bright

Now I know why the lettuce seeds never sprouted!!

scooter the cat sleeping in the lettuce bed


Posted by Roberta or John at 3:36 PM EST
Updated: Saturday, 4 January 2014 3:44 PM EST
Sunday, 15 December 2013
Community

It’s been a great month! We have accomplished a lot: fence-building, working on kitchen 2 and the river place, and weeding and mulching in preparation for springtime growth. But what has been really great is that we have had opportunities to meet some wonderful members of the community of North Florida farmers.First, there are Lisa and Walker–owners of Sweet Lil Wee Farms. We attended their open house and found in them two kindred spirits–two people who have had other life options but are choosing the life of a farmer and understand the challenges of farming. We look forward to sharing our experiences and learning from them.

Then, there is Debbie Driggers of Delta Shamrock Farms. She bought Wester, our littlest bull, because she breeds mini-minis. She was looking for a mini-bull for her little herd of Dexters and mini-Herefords and Wester was perfect. We were relieved to not have to butcher him–though that still leaves Easter–a last bull calf from this year for us to butcher.

Meeting fellow farmers like these–folks who understand the joys and pain of farming–is such a powerful blessing. We are very thankful for them.


Posted by Roberta or John at 6:53 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 15 December 2013 7:27 PM EST
Thursday, 7 November 2013
Modernist Cooking
Mood:  incredulous

As I mentioned, I am taking an online course in molecular gastronomy. It is a Harvard University class (so now can I say I “attended” Harvard?!) It has given me an opportunity to wrestle with my Chemistry demon (left over from high school chemistry class which was NOT a friend of mine!) I am hoping to improve the texture of my breads which due to the high concentration of whole grains and fiber are not as light as I would like.

pictures of bread

Ready for the oven!

So, why the blog entry? Well, this week we are working on “modernist” cooking–better cooking through chemistry. I would say this is the antithesis of what we stand for at Lacefield Farms if it were not for the fact that in the class they mention that baking powder is a human/chemically engineered product–a product I have obliviously used for years! I haven’t gotten very far into it yet but the “previews” indicate the instructor will argue that these manufactured ingredients are healthier than using sugar. We will see. Stay tuned for more.


Posted by Roberta or John at 12:30 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 15 December 2013 6:52 PM EST
Friday, 11 October 2013
Oh no…

Well, it has happened again–I’ve gone over a month without blogging! So, I give up. It will happen when it happens. Sorry Eric!My latest adventure is a free online cooking class hosted by Harvard University as part of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC.) I’m really enjoying it. The class is called “Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science.” There is a lot of math in it (which I am loving) and also a lot of chemistry (not loving so much.) This is only my first week but I am learning a lot. rsl

The picture you see is me checking the calibration of my stove. We did this by putting a 1/2 Tablespoon of sugar in our preheated ovens (set at 350) and then checking the sugar after 15 minutes. If it hadn’t melted, we were supposed to raise the temp 10 degrees (or, in the case of my analog stove, 25 degrees) and check again after 15 minutes. We were to repeat this process until the sugar melted. Since sugar always melts at 366 degrees, it should melt in a properly calibrated stove between 360 and 370 (or 350 and 375.) I am happy to report my old, beat-up, worn-out stove did just fine. The fancy new one in the processing room however…

I had previously taken a solar energy class but I couldn’t handle the technical aspects–it was pretty hardcore. If you haven’t taken a free online class, check out MOOC-List for a lot of great stuff. I’m thinking I’ll try a literature class next. 🙂

 


Posted by Roberta or John at 11:23 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 11 October 2013 11:47 AM EDT
Monday, 26 August 2013
Eric
Mood:  chatty
Our friend Eric has told me he routinely reads our blog but he gives me a hard time about the amount of time that passes between posts. So, I made a promise to myself that this month I would try to post more often. Nearly every day I have had an idea for a posting–thoughts on the webworm caterpillars defoliating our trees (who knew this American native is a European invasive!), the epiphany that happened as I was destroying a paper wasp nest (THEY FEED CATERPILLARS TO THEIR YOUNG!!), the pineapples
that are ripening in the greenhouse (if the webworm caterpillars don’t eat them first!!), the nature of cattle, fences, the subtle changes in the weather (have you been feeling those fall breezes?)–there is always something to write about. This is partly because many of the jobs on a farm lend themselves to meditations on life–weeding, or working on fences, or starting seeds in the greenhouse, or walking back from the pasture. Having something to think about is not the problem. So, what is? I don’t know–remembering to actually do the posting?! :-)Today I remembered so here’s my latest entry–for Eric. (Hi Eric!)

We didn’t have much of a pear crop this year because we had a cold snap after most of the pear trees had just blossomed. Only the late bloomers (like the Kieffers and Orients) had a yield and it was not a big one. However, Deb and Khrys’s tree is next to their house so that warmth followed by the intermittent rains means they have a LOT of pears. When they offered to share their bounty, we jumped at the chance.

When we got home, the work began–deciding what to do with them!! We need to conserve freezer space because come fall, we will have chicken and beef to put in it. I thought about canning them but neither of us like canned foods. It doesn’t seem to matter whether the canning is done by a corporation or a family member. My grandmother and mother both canned and while I loved the spiced peaches, I don’t like the “dead” taste that seems to come from the high heat required of canning. It is as if all the energy has been destroyed. So, what to do with these pears.

Well, this year I have been doing a TON of dehydrating. I’ve done tomatoes (which I then used in breads, crackers, and soups), blueberries (a quart of blueberries shrinks down to less than a cup!), grapes, figs (dehydrating changes them from something John won’t eat to something he enjoys–and it’s a LOT less work than making fig newtons!), and our small crop of apples and pears. So, my first thought was to dehydrate these pears as well. Then Deb mentioned fruit leather . She also loaned me some trays to make it easier, suggested adding nuts (for protein), recommended keeping the mixture as dry as possible (to dehydrate quicker), and showed me how she removes the pear from the core rather than the core from the pear (HUGE timesaver!!) So, I was on a mission!

fruitleatherWell, I LOVE the fruit leather!! It tastes a bit like a really healthy gummy bear. I made up several recipes. For all of them, I first cooked the pears. (These are, after all, good ole Florida sand pears!) Besides, I wanted to keep the skins of these beautiful organic pears for the fiber and nutrients. Cooking makes the skins softer and more enjoyable to eat.

I knew I wanted a little bit of sugar, but not much, so for one batch I blended in some of Marie’s famous Mayhaw jelly. Although I admit it doesn’t look that great before it is dried (it’s the up-chuck looking goo on the right side of the picture) but when it is dry, the colors and the taste become more concentrated. YUM!!

I also made a batch with my berry jam (see earlier post) and a batch with herbs from the garden (cardamom leaves, holy basil) and some ginger. There were still some cooked pears left over so I put them in some canning jars in the fridge. I didn’t process them but we can get them eaten in the next few days. We love fruit in the morning with our fresh eggs and home-made bread.
Now, I am nearly done with the day–just waiting on the current batch of bread and cinnamon rolls to do their final rise before I put them in the oven. As I sit here, it finally occurs to me why I don’t get around to doing more of these posts–I’m tired! But Eric, you are worth it. 🙂


Posted by Roberta or John at 3:18 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 26 August 2013 5:08 PM EDT
Saturday, 10 August 2013
Synchronicity
Mood:  d’oh
Do you have those synchronous moments when seemingly random events collide? That happened to me recently with the idea of invasives.First, week before last we were busy battling centipede grass. It has invaded some of our pastures. This is a problem because it stays short–too short for the cattle to eat it. Therefore, a pasture can be full of grass and yet the cows go hungry. Ironically, we intentionally introduced this plant onto the farm because of its tolerance for low Ph and poor soils. We would love to have this grass in our front yard because it saves energy since it does not need to be mowed regularly–something we do with the Bahia because of my allergies. So, we rented a sodcutter, cut the centipede sod in the pasture, cut the bahia sod in the front yard, and switched. Now we will see what happens.

Next, one night last week I saw a sweet big-eyed tree frog in the fig tree eating my figs. I let it be–it was truly beautiful. The next day I searched the internet to identify it. Turns out it was a Cuban tree frog–an invasive. Turns out there is a professor who has his research assistants working on projects to do away with this cuban invader. (Check out the instructions on how to gas the little bugger: http://ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/cuban_treefrog_inFL.shtml )

Finally, with my mom I attended  a presentation on native plants. As part of the display there was a book called “Invasive Plant Medicine: The Ecological Benefits and Healing Abilities of Invasives.” I’ve been reading that book and it is changing the way I think about invasives because it makes a strong argument that invasives are natural and are very useful to our soil and our earth.

Actually, my thinking about invasives initially was challenged when Boots and I attempted to make a garden for the Administrative Offices of the park. The park administrator at that time wanted us to use only native plants. This led us to a conundrum–how far do you go back in a plant’s history to determine if it is native?! Even corn–that quintessential native plant food–has only been a native for 8000 years! So, where do you draw the line? We ended up dropping the project because we were unable to decide what qualified as native!

My thinking was also challenged when I found out that the “invasive” African bees (killer bees) are much stronger than the European bees (that ironically we call “native”) and so are able to withstand hive collapse.

And then there are the cowbirds which do such a great job of eating the hornflies off our cows and cleaning the grasshoppers out of our fields. The story is that these immigrants came over from Africa on the backs of a hurricane.

So, this is what was on my mind yesterday when John and I were watching a video on  hay-less winter grazing. It is a recording of a gentleman in Crescent City, FL who is grazing his 200 head of cattle year-round. He a native of Mexico and is using many of the things that have been working for him on his ranch there. One of his strategies is to plant Mimosa and Honey Locust in his fields. Both are considered invasives but both are legumes which means as “nitrogen-fixers” they are medicine for the soil. (More information: http://farmprogress.com/story-valuable-silvopasture-has-edible-trees-14-98044 )

Although I have relatives who moved to this continent in the 1600’s, many people would consider me an invasive. Just today I was called a Yankee and told that “GD Yankees are the ones who won’t go home.” I guess that means I am most definitely an invasive. Perhaps that is what makes me so tolerant of my fellow invasives on our farm.


Posted by Roberta or John at 6:34 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 10 August 2013 8:46 PM EDT
Imperfection
Our ideas about food have become a bit skewed and off. For example, we have been trained to believe perfection translates into flavor. We often seek the best looking and biggest fruits and vegetables because we think they will be the tastiest and healthiest. We overlook the small and blemished because we believe them to be inferior–in food and in life. By doing so, we are missing out. 


Posted by Roberta or John at 6:41 AM EDT
Sunday, 23 June 2013
Experimenting
Mood:  energetic
One of the challenges we have is finding ways to preserve the goodness of fresh foods so we can enjoy them in the off seasons. We freeze, can, and dry fruits and vegetables. I also make preserves. The problem is that while I love jams and preserves, I don’t like all that sugar. However, without sugar, you get syrup.
chiaseedjamSo, I tried something suggested by Diane, my nephew’s fiance. Diane gave me some Chia seeds and suggested I use them as a thickener. I only knew Chia as the “hair” on a chia pet so I was surprised when she recommended them but I am very happy with the results. Here is what I did.

I cooked 3 cups of fresh blackberries in their own juice for 5 minutes (long enough to incorporate 3 T of Mexican cane sugar) and then put the mix through a Foley foodmill to remove some of the seeds. Next, I added 3 T of Chia seeds. This yielded a full pint of jam with just enough extra to eat now! As you can see in the picture, the extra jam looks wonderful on a piece of homemade bread. It also tastes great because the Chia adds bulk without overwhelming the flavor of the berries in the way that sugar does. Thanks Diane!


Posted by Roberta or John at 1:19 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 23 June 2013 1:45 PM EDT

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Page 5 of Archives

Lacefield Farms Blog
Wednesday, 12 June 2013
Life
Life. What matters? What is important? What is the purpose? Why? Why? Why? The reason I love farming is that all that mess falls away when I am digging out weeds or planting or doing chores. I still don’t have answers but I do have this absolute knowledge that there is reason and purpose–that I am a cog in the wheel of a life that makes sense. 

Posted by Roberta or John at 5:27 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 12 June 2013 5:33 AM EDT
Sunday, 14 April 2013
April already?!
OMYGOSH it’s mid-April already! Since my last post, the other two mamas had their calves. We now have a full complement (3), Cinder, the female mentioned in the previous post, Wester born 5 days later and Easter born on, you guessed it, Easter day. The last two, unfortunately are male (or “fortunately” if you either love veal or are Winston–the bull who had have to go if we kept his daughters.) Wester is in the picture on the left and Easter is to the right (east-ha!)  Mama and Cinder are in the background next to the bale of hay.  I’ve been milking Mama daily since three days after Cinder’s birth. She continues to tolerate it (though she gives me a look that tells me she things I am a weirdo.) I only get about a pint of milk a day but that is enough to keep me in milk and allow me to make a bit of yogurt. I’m very thankful and don’t like to think about what the future inevitably holds for her–she’s our oldest cow.We also have 6 little chicks hatched by one of the black hens. She’s been a great mama so far–a relief since our two best moms were killed by a local bulldog. Why is it alwasys the good ones who get caught?! I especially hated to lose the little hen who last year single-handedly raised two broods. She was the best mom I’ve ever seen–training her babies to eat bugs, avoid fluttering helplessly around kitties, and raise a big ruckus when something bad is trying to get into the pen.

We have the garden about half in. It is still missing the hot weather crops–peppers and okra. The peppers in the greenhouse were killed the night it went down to 27 degrees (the night after Wester was born! It was so cold, he didn’t get up to poop and ended up with a bad case of pasty butt that nearly did him in–ask us and we will give you ALL the details!) A lot of things got killed that night including any hope of a crop from the pomegranites. However, the blueberries made it through. Since they are our biggest crop, that was a relief.

We are trying something new to help build our soil. We have planted some patches of hairy indigo--a legume that the cows love and that is tolerant of low-fertility soils. we are hoping it will build the soil and that we will also be able to get a cutting or two off of it for the cows. We seeded it on a rainy day but hadn’t had any rain since it germinated. It was at critical stage yesterday but, thankfully, today it rained. The seed cost $150 a bag so we were VERY happy to see the rain. It is another reminder that we humans can plan and set goals but in farming, it really isn’t up to us. God laughs (and it isn’t usually a santa-belly-laugh. Wink)


Posted by Roberta or John at 3:16 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 14 April 2013 3:58 PM EDT
Sunday, 24 March 2013
It’s spring!
Mood:  lucky
FINALLY, we have our first calf of the year. We have been expecting one since late December (obviously there was a miscalculation!) and, at last, it is here! What a little cutey. It was born very quickly–we did the chores this morning and wondered if Mama was going to have it today. I checked on her before noon and the calf was up and trying to nurse! I would say I expect Buffalo Girl to deliver today but I have been saying that any number of days now!

We also have a chicken setting on some eggs (since last weekend) and lots of blooms! Although the Mayhaws got frosted at absolutely the wrong time, the pears and blueberries are looking good. It just might be a productive year despite the odd hot/cold spring weather. We are hopeful.It has been great porch weather. As an example of how good it has been I am posting a picture of our two boys–one happily lounging and using his brother as a cushion, the other annoyed at me for waking him.


Posted by Roberta or John at 12:03 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 24 March 2013 12:13 PM EDT
Monday, 18 February 2013
More Chillin’
Mood:  chillin’
Well, the sun is coming up and it is 18 degrees right now. This is not abnormal for February–just abnormal for the lows in the 50’s we’ve been having. Since our pear trees are now in full bloom–and we’ve had little rain to cushion the blow–we fear for the worst. But, that is farming. Anyone who has ever read Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder knows it has ever been so.The odd thing is that it is impossible to feel hopeless in the spring. Fall, yes but spring, no way. Every day shows something new fighting its way to the surface or showing a bit of green. This is why people still love to farm. And that also has ever been so.


Posted by Roberta or John at 7:16 AM EST
Updated: Monday, 18 February 2013 8:56 AM EST
Friday, 15 February 2013
Oh no!!
Mood:  chillin’
Oh no!! After weeks in the 70’s and 80’s with warms nights as well, the pears, mayhaws, and citrus are covered in blooms. The pomegranites and figs have leafed out. The blueberries are budded. Everything thought it was spring.Then, cool air blew in some much needed rain. We got only a quarter inch but hoped it would be enough to give the ground enough additional mass to hold some warmth. Unfortunately at 5 AM the temp on the porch was already down to 30 degrees. That is NOT a good sign.


Posted by Roberta or John at 5:19 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 15 February 2013 5:24 AM EST
Sunday, 23 December 2012
Frosty Day
Mood:  cool
John feeding molasses to the cows and chickens. 

It was a frosty morning this morning. The crystals in the grass were shining like diamonds and John wore his Rocky squirrel hat. It was one of those mornings when a warm house feels like a huge blessing. Our only concern is for Buffalo Girl’s calf–due any day now. I hope s/he waits for a toastier day!


Posted by Roberta or John at 9:51 AM EST
Updated: Sunday, 23 December 2012 9:58 AM EST
Sunday, 16 December 2012
Update
Mood:  chatty
I found the camera! The picture shows our herd, including Midge and Cocoa. Midge is in the forefront with Cocoa to her right. Cocoa is half lowline angus and half Murray Grey. Midge is half Dexter and half lowline angus. Midge will be a year old in January and Cocoa is about 5 months old. It is possible Midge was bred when we bought her but we hope not. Because the are both naturally polled (hornless), they will (hopefully) give us calves that do not need to be dehorned. We would have preferred to stay with purebred Dexters but both price and proximity made diversity a better approach.Now that we are nearing the end of the year, this is a good time to look back and reflect as we move forward. For a while there, struggles with weather made me ready to give up on the farm. This past summer we had a great  crop in the garden and it looked like a good year for fruit. Then we had a severe drought followed by a flood that annihilated the garden. This was followed by a huge crop of caterpillars and other bugs. The cows were bedeviled by them. It seemed as if we would never make a profit on the farm! We both questioned the choices we had made.

However, the market is slowly changing. I feel more hopeful now. The ironic thing is that if times do continue to get tough, our local farm makes sense. It means that if times are good, our farm has value because someone will have money to buy it from us some day when we are too old to tend it. And, if times get bad, the food we grow on it becomes more valuable. Either way, our farm makes sense as an investment of time, love, and money. It feels great to be able to end the year on a positive note and to again take joy in what we do.


Posted by Roberta or John at 4:54 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 16 December 2012 5:23 PM EST
Saturday, 10 November 2012
New members of the herd
Mood:  celebratory
Tomorrow we are picking up two additions to our herd–both cross-breeds. We had a line on some full-blood Dexters at a reasonable price but Bruce wanted to sell them as a group. This would have been too much for us–4 cow-calf pairs would have overwhelmed our little herd. However, because that didn’t work out we met Jessica and her herd of mismatched (but much loved) assortment. We decided to purchase a Dexter/Lowline Angus mix (10 months old) and a Lowline/Murray Grey mix (4 months.) We are excited to add them to the herd–pictures are coming (as soon as I remember what I did with the camera!!) 

Posted by Roberta or John at 11:51 AM EST
Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Full Moon!
Mood:  bright
The weather is doing its annual October thing–a few cold days to kill off the lingering summer crops before a return to warm weather. So, we are trying to keep some of those lingering summer crops alive through the cold spell so we can reap their bounty for a bit longer! I’m hopeful about the zucchini and cucumbers but worried about the tomatoes and eggplant. I’ve moved the peppers to the hothouse. I’m crossing my fingers about the watermelon–if we can’t eat them, the cows and chickens will. The cold should sweeten the grapefruits and oranges. It is looking hopeful. YEAH! 

Posted by Roberta or John at 8:53 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 30 October 2012 9:20 PM EDT
Wednesday, 10 October 2012
Fall
Mood:  not sure
Fall.Such an interesting word for a time when things are slowing (growth of grass, speed of heat-loving reptiles), things are dying (butterflies, annuals, heat-loving veggies), and things are settling in for the cool, dark days.

It is easy to become morose and maudlin at times like this. It takes energy to get up and get moving. I love working at the school but at this time of year it is easy to feel I do not make a difference. It is hard to rise up against the fall.

What sustains me is the knowledge that this too shall pass. So, for now I will just fall and prepare to rise again.


Posted by Roberta or John at 8:08 AM EDT

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Page 4 of Archives

Lacefield Farms Blog
Sunday, 29 July 2012
Making hay while the sun shines…
Mood:  sharp
It was a good day today–we put up our first hay. We cut it with the bush hog, raked it with a rake we picked up at Faul’s in Lake City, and then put it up loose. By not using a baler, it is a relatively inexpensive way to make hay.

While we were working on this project, I was thinking about equipment maintenance. I’ve noticed that some folks don’t really believe in maintaining their equipment. They don’t grease and oil things; they don’t protect them from the rain; they don’t fix broken parts and as a result, equipment beats itself to bits. That is what someone did to the rake we bought, It was beat up. The bearings are shot. However, it was worth every penny of the $400 we paid for it. And, we will take care of it. We are like Phaedrus in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance–we take joy in the hum of well-maintained equipment.


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 8:27 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 10 October 2012 8:15 AM EDT
Sunday, 15 July 2012
Hobby Farm?
Mood:  lyrical
Two weeks ago we had a flood that forced us to finally accept that times are not right for us to have a profitable farm. Although up until then we hadn’t yet given up, a quick glance at our records and accounting would have shown what was in the cards.

Up until two weeks ago were were still thinking we could make a go of this. John had completed our roadside stand; the chickens were producing eggs; the garden was going bonkers (we finally figured out a way to keep the chickens out of our veggies.) Then, we had 16 inches of rain in 27 hours. In that short time we lost most of our garden and our hope for sale-able produce. In addition, the chickens were traumatized and egg production went down the drain. In addition, animals driven by the rising waters to higher ground finished off the blueberries. The rains were too late to save the blackberries decimated by months without rain. It was too much too late.

However, this isn’t the end of our farm. It is just a temporary stay in our efforts to be profitable. It is a switch to what the tax man calls “hobby farming.” For now, we will put most of our energies into other endeavors–blacksmithing, teaching, yoga, and other projects.  Meanwhile, we will continue to experiment with sustainable methods and let the farm help us cut our food bill and provide us with heathier choices.

And, some day, it may be profitable to have a small farm. When that time comes, we will be here ready to begin again.


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 5:44 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 15 July 2012 6:20 PM EDT
Saturday, 12 May 2012
The Cycle
Mood:  vegas lucky
Wow! It has been nearly two months since I last blogged. How time does “fly”.:-)

Today as we were working with our french drain compost piles, I was thinking about the cycles of the earth. With apologies to the Suwannee Bicycle Association, they are not the cycles I was thinking of. I was thinking of a question a friend asked a few weeks ago–how do we improve our soil. I tried to explain but he didn’t seem to get it so I was considering how I could better explain.

I think the problem is that there is a simple, commonly accepted way to improve soil nutrients. Simply add 10-10-10 to the soil–what I call the “Git-ur-done” method of soil improvement. It is fast, easy, controllable so why wouldn’t we want to do this? My reply was that while this is one way to insert nutrients into the cycle, a method used by many folks, we had chosen to move to a different point on the cycle to interject the nutrients. We interject them through our livestock (see the deer in the image.) It was in there somewhere that I felt I had not explained myself.

Here’s where we all agree–the nutrient cycle is a closed loop–nothing is created but only recycled. In order to improve the amount of nutrients available in the loop, some must be inserted. We agree but we insert the nutrients into the animals rather than directly into the soil. In other words, calcium deficient chicken raised on calcium deficient soil will lay calcium deficient (easily broken) eggs unless their diet is improved. (We use oyster shells.) If their diet is improved, excess calcium will be defecated which will improve the soil. Similarly, cattle raised on mineral-poor soil will lack minerals. If their diet is improved by adding to the grass they are eating (we use molasses), the extra minerals are defecated into the soil. Even better, if their bones are returned to the soil, the soil becomes even richer with all the vitamins and minerals which means the soil is more able to support the next generation without amendments.

So, rather than feed our soil, we feed our animals. We feed alfalfa cubes and vitamin rich food wastes. We feed grain to our chickens. We feed them our neighbor’s corn husks and cobs–corn that was fed by him. We then use the animal wastes to feed our soil which then feeds the plants our animals eat so that their diet is improved. That is the cycle I was thinking about this morning and that I tried to explain to our friend.

It is true this approach is slow. The soil is built up over years rather than days. But, this slow approach and cyclical thinking is central to sustainable farming and sustainable living. Perhaps our pace of life is an anachronism like our unwillingness to carry a cellphone everywhere we go or our willingness to live in an old small manufactured home. Perhaps it is because we are odd that it is hard to understand what we are seeing and doing. Regardless of the reason, I truly believe it is worth trying to explain–more and more folks are thinking oddly like us.


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 12:46 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 12 May 2012 1:39 PM EDT
Sunday, 18 March 2012
Fly Girl
Calfie (the last of our pregnant cows/heifers) had her baby Thursday. Calfie (Rosie’s daughter) gave us our first girl calf. We named her “Fly” partly because she is so cool and partly because the mild winter did not kill all the stable flies so she is…”fly.” Sorry, too much time at the farm will do that to you.

In this picture, Fly is about 25 minutes old. She is the first baby for Calfie (and she is a female) so she is not as large as the bulls were when they were born. She is also the first truly brown calf we have had. What a little cutie!

It has been interesting watching her with the herd. They were SO excited when Hoppy was born and still very interested when Dusky joined the herd. However, little Fly’s presence garnered interest only from the calves–everyone else has become quite blase’.


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 9:05 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 18 March 2012 9:15 PM EDT
Wednesday, 14 March 2012
The politics of spring
When I logged on today, I saw that we are having record spring temperatures across the country. So, I expect most people who have been outside today experienced what I experienced–spring is in the air. One of our broody hen’s chicks have been hatching. She started the day with one baby and is already up to 3. Our youngest heifer will have her calf any day now. The pears, blueberries, apples, and plums are in full bloom and the blackberries will join them soon.

So, as I was weeding and hoeing–preparing for the next rain and for planting seedlings next month–the feeling of spring across our country was on my mind. I was thinking, spring is a time when things look bright (literally and figuratively). It is a time when we think about growth and not weeds. It is a time when the future looks sunny, and we don’t care to think about the potential of one more killing frost. Though we may know in our hearts it is still early and cannot yet last, it is a time when everything looks fresh and new and possible. And so, our nation’s politicians should take note. This is not the time for the “I have a nightmare” speech. This is not the damp and dreary gray of winter. It is “I have a dream” time. Because, at least for today, I can once again envision a country that is full of the promises of spring. I hope you feel it too.

 


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 12:15 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 14 March 2012 12:36 PM EDT
Saturday, 4 February 2012
Calves
Mood:  a-ok
We are enjoying the calves. Here’s the latest picture of Hop-Along and Dusky. 
 

Posted by Roberta or John at 6:28 PM EST
Updated: Saturday, 4 February 2012 6:31 PM EST
Wednesday, 1 February 2012
Spring
Mood:  celebratory
Spring is in the air. Oh, I know it is all a joke from Mother Nature and that we will get a killing frost (or two or three) before the true spring is here but that isn’t really the spring I am talking about. I’m talking about that spring that brings the promise of new hope, new starts, and bright horizons. It is no coincidence that Easter is in spring.

Last evening our cow Rosie (aka “Mama”) had her calf. It was a struggle as she pressed and groaned and strained. The calf has a large head and front feet (the part that is born first). When it became obvious that a little tug would be much appreciated, I grasped the baby’s hoofs and with the next contraction, pulled slightly. Two of those assists, and we had a healthy calf.  John and I enjoyed a glass of wine as we sat in the settling dark outside the corral. We’ve named the calf “Dusk.” We think he is a boy.

Of course, with a boy calf comes the knowledge that he will likely be in the freezer come this time next year. That would be sad news except that it also means Winston can continue to live. If he was throwing girls, Winston would have only about a year and a half before he would be headed for the freezer. Genetics. But for now, the babies are cute, the grass is green, and everyone is happy. What a great reminder to live in the moment.

While the cows have been busy, John and I have also been at work. We have been finishing the job our dear friend Eileen helped me start–weeding the blueberries. It is nasty work involving lots of pulling of prickly and thorny plants, digging with tools and hands, sweating, fire ants, and using muscles we don’t generally use.  However, I think Eileen would agree that it was actually fun. We chatted and planned and kibitzed and gossiped as we worked. When we finished, we stood back to enjoy the sight of clean rows and happy blueberry plants. There is a sense of accomplishment that comes with farming that is all too rare in other professions.

Meanwhile, the chickens have also (finally) gotten to work. I don’t know if it was the slaughtering we did last week or the feel of spring in the air, or the fresh grasshoppers that have started to appear but they are finally getting off their toofusses (or should I say they are getting on them) and laying some eggs. Yeah!!

Last week as I was working on the taxes and facing the yearly reality of trying to make a profit in farming (or just break even!), I was feeling a bit down but this week all things seem once again to be possible. Perhaps that is the real reason people like us continue to work so hard to make a farm–the unmitigated joy of new hope.


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 12:10 PM EST
Sunday, 22 January 2012
New life!
Mood:  happy
Buffalo Girl has delivered a healthy new calf (see the older post from May 2010 about her first calf.)  We are all happy to be celebrating the event (although I admit this rooster looks underwhelmed.)


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 12:58 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 22 January 2012 1:07 PM EST
Friday, 16 December 2011
The sun also rises
Mood:  happy
I apologize for my last message. Sometimes in December when the days are short and the sunlight is scanty, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. This morning, I heard the guns from the deerhunters, I heard something making a haunting cry, and I saw the sun rise. Life goes on.

This morning I was thinking about how my generation (lagging boomer) was all about reinventing ourselves–which for many of us meant “throwing off the oppressive shackles of family histories” and moving to someplace where we can begin anew. I see generations younger than me who seem to understanding that we cannot avoid our history so we have nothing to gain by all this frantic movement. Instead we lose our roots–our connections to a people and place. As I grow older, I see the tragedy in that.

John and I lived the longest we have ever lived anywhere when we lived in Waycross. Leaving Waycross meant leaving a history we share with many, many students. I find I miss that sense of shared history and it has encouraged me to commit the necessary energy to making a history here. We already have the beginning of roots. We spent so many years connected to this area through our friends–Eric and Becky Larsen, Johnny Bullard, the Prices and the McKenzies. We have a history with the Suwannee River. We our connected to our land. And we have the opportunity to broaden those roots through connections with young people in our local schools. I think I see a new year’s resolution–and a new year–rising with the sun.


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 7:04 AM EST
Sunday, 11 December 2011
Raising the white flag
Mood:  don’t ask
Last night I finally felt the straw that broke this camel’s back. I am ready to admit defeat and to give up on trying to make a profit from farming. The irony is that the straw that did me in was one of Florida’s attempts at regulation relief called the “Cottage Rules.”

I started to type the explanation but, you know what, I don’t even want to try. It’s all good. It’s just the final straw, not the biggest. This is just me starting to admit what I knew all along.


 

Posted by Roberta or John at 11:41 AM EST

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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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