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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Of Corn, Squash Pumpkins, Heat,Rest Flies, And Caterpillars

The corn is is up and growing fast in the hot days we're having. I have been hoeing it and planting squash and pumpkins between the hills of corn in the cool of the early morning before it gets hot.
We have a natural plague of sugar maple eating caterpillars that have have reached a population in the last two years to completely defoliate a forest in a few days. There is also a fly that eats these caterpillars. Once the sun is up these flies come to drink my sweat by ten o'clock they come by the hundreds to drink and it becomes unbearable and the dark sandy soil gets too hot to stand on in one spot for long so the I go on to other farm chores. Then if I come inside and read until I become sleepy and lay down for a siesta and sleep away the hottest hour I like to take a short nap like this if I get the opportunity in the summer it sort of give a boost of energy for the long northern evening.
The corn field looking at it diagonally at this angle you can see that it is planted in hills 36'' a part
At this angle it looks to be planted in rows.
The bothersome flies.
A close up of one of these flies they are known as Friendly Flies (Sarcophaga aldrichi)
The Forest Tent Caterpillars (Malacosome disstria)
This is the neighbors Sugar Bush that I worked in this spring it is completely defoliated. This will not kill the trees but it will reduce the sugar content in the sap.
The rye I planted last fall is growing good and is almost as high as me.
To the side of the rye I planted Buckwheat it is up and growing good too.
This is Hairy Vetch that I planted to build up the soil it is a good legume to plant here as it is winter hardy and it fixes a lot of nitrogen from the air into the soil.
A Blue Bird that is nesting near by this field of rye vetch and buckwheat.
This is a nest of Red Winged Blackbirds that is in another patch of vetch at the end of the corn field by the farm sign
Our farm sign
(verdant is pronounced vairdant like air and ant)

Here are some links on the forest tent caterpillars and the flies that eat them.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Our First Attempt At Making Hay by Hand At Verdant Farm

Here are some photos of our first time making hay by hand at our farm. It seems to have turned out good and better then any hay we have purchased.
Honing the scythe blade with a whetstone
spreading the hay out to dry
Since I cut the grass in the orchard we had to rake the hay out from under the trees into the sunlight to dry.
The hay rakes are homemade out of wood
Gathering up the dry hay and bringing it to the hay cock building site
Stacking the hay on a rack
Putting on the finale layer
A finished hay cock. There is a opening on both ends that allows air circulation to further dry the hay.
Me and my brother with the only tools necessary to make hay.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Mixed Up World

To day I am very tempted to be angry. There is something going on across the road that is not right. It started this morning when a stainless steel tanker truck pulled up our road and parked in the field across the road. Soon two men(they can not be called farmers any more and they prefer this! they're are properly called Agribusiness men ) drove up in a tractor and pickup and started pumping the contents of the tanker into tanks on the tractor and on the seeder at the back of the tractor. I went over and asked what they were planting they said corn. I was a bit relieved as they do not spray corn as much as the other thing they plant. But then I asked what was in the tank they said "fertilizer yup liquid fertilizer". Yuk! Then one of then asked why I was not in school today I was a little taken back I grinned and said I was going on 23! Then it was their turn to be taken back one of them laughed and said to the other "yer giding old"(MI way of talking) Then I asked why they had to spray there carrots so many times last year. One of them answered " oh we spray once a week" what for I asked "fer bugs" what kinda bugs? "oh nematodes an leafhoppers an fungus" Wow I guess thats what they get when they plant a mono crop! I never get these pests on our carrots. What is so upsetting about all this is that we just got our water tested and it is high in nitrates it has gone up from 11 pm(parts per million) on the last test five years ago to 14.5 pm. And this is hindering us from getting our farm kitchen state certified. What I think is wrong is that the MDA expects us to pay for the problem and does not address the source of the problem. And the Health Department who took the test is calling it a natural high nitrate level! So very upsetting!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Hot Sunday

To day was hot, 80's in the shade. I made 6 more hay racks, they turned out well construction wise. I'll have to see how they work in a few day as I have all ready started cutting the grass in the orchard. Last week four more lambs were born they are growing very fast and already trying to eat a little grass! The young kids are growing good to and the mother goats are giving a lot of milk.

The hay racks, I made three different sizes.
Autumn and her first buck kid. I really like this goat she is only a year old and has grown on only grass and is only eating grass and gives a lot of good tasting high fat milk for her age.
The four new lambs and their mothers.
The barley and oat are growing good too!

As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night. Genesis 8:22 NLT

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Ram And Hay Drying Racks

Today we went to Joe Wave's farm to pick up a ram that we gave to him a few years a go. Joe is getting a new ram so he offered it back to us and I decided to get him back. He was born on our farm so he is a little related to the rest of our sheep but since we have brought in new blood lines we will be able to use him agin as a breeding ram. This ram fathers very nice lambs that get almost too fat on just grass (no grain) so I am glad to have him back. Joe lent him out to another farm and there he had an accident to one of his front legs. Some how he got his leg crushed and the bone was sticking out so this farmer farmer cut the leg of at the knee folded the skin over and wrapped it up with duct-tape. The leg healed up and he can still mount the ewes to breed.
Also this evening I made two hay rack to dry the hay I am planing on cutting with my scythe. I am very pleased with how they turned out and will be making a lot more. One thing nice about them is that they come apart easily for storage, and do not need fasteners to keep them together and yet can hold a lot of weight.
The old three legged veteran before I sheared him
After the shearing
The pile of wool
The hay racks set up they are made out of pine scraps that I got free at the local sawmill.
The hay racks taken apart for storage

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Forest Fire!

To day I decided to stop putting off doing a not so pleasant chore. Washing 80 or so 4 and 5 gallon plastic buckets that we use to collect maple sap, yes I put It of for a long time. But I got it done and now the buckets are clean and ready for next year. I also took a brake from washing and went with some of my family into the national forest with our loader tractor and trailer to pick up fire wood and black locust posts. That Daddy and my younger brothers cut earlier to day. The black locust posts were quit a blessing. I have been wanting to fence in our land but have not do to cost and lack of posts. So it was a blessing to find that the tree removers have been cutting down black locust trees in the forest where a power-line goes through. We are not allowed to cut down live trees out in the national forest but since the trees were all ready cut down we are going to put them to good use. Black locust makes wonderful posts since the wood is rot resistant and will last for 30 years or more in the ground. When we got back I went back to washing buckets. Then one of us notice a smokey brown cloud drifting from the east. We knew it was not an ordinary cloud and soon it drifted over the sun turning the bright sunny afternoon to an evening sunset glow. Then one of my brothers informed us that the neighbor boy told him that they saw on the news that it was smoke from a forest fire. So I went on line to find out where it was, and found that there was two forest fires one in Kalkaska and Crawford counties within the National Guard base(Camp Grayling) and a very large one in Rosscommon county 90 or so miles to the east of us. The small fire is under control now but burned over 1000 acres an destroyed 10 structures. The big one is not under control yet and has burned 5000 acres mostly a national forest area of Jack-pine and has destroyed 20 homes. Both fires have forced residents to evacuate to emergency shelters being setup at schools and township halls.

Here are two photos of one of the fires
The sun as seen behind the smoke at our farm
Me washing the buckets by the sugar house

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rainy Day Ramblings

To day is rainy and cold with an east wind so I'm indoors out of the cold. I checked on the corn seed and despite the cold it is germinating. I not sure of this or not but I think the the hybrid corn has lost the traits that keep the seed from rotting so it needs fungicide to keep the seed from rotting. The corn I plant is a very hardy variety and has the ability to grow back after a frost. One year it got hit by a frost in May but had just sprouted so it kept growing. Then we got a frost in June and the corn was up about 6 or 7 inches the corn looked terrible all wilted and black we thought we'd have to replant. We weeded it and let it be for a few days and lo and be hold it came back not every plant but this was okay because we plant four seeds to the hill to this rhyme.
One for the black frost
One the crow
One for the soil
One to grow
This dose not mean that only one survives but it leaves room for natural selection. It amazes me how The Creator as put all this adaptability in seeds there is no need for hybrids, and GMO seeds and all the garbage that the chemical companies make to keep these weak seeds from rotting and supposedly growing good.
One of last years corn fields the stalks grew 11 feet high

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Holistic Grazing Seminar

Over the weekend I attended a seminar on holistic grazing by Cody Holmes a rancher from south Missouri. The definition of holistic is:
a. Emphasizing the importance of the whole and the interdependence of its parts.
b. concerned with wholes rather then analysis or separation into parts.
I learned a lot more about grass land and animal management then I ever knew. A few of the key things I learned were: let the pasture grow high in the summer and then let the cattle nock it down this will in time build the soil, When the grass grows fast move the cattle fast, when the grass grows slow move the cattle slow, the animals should not re graze a paddock until a minimum of 90 days, and much much more. As part of the class we went to two farms with Cody to discuss them and what could be done to holistically heal the land using the existing animals on each of the farms. One farm is a buffalo ranch and is hundreds of acres the other is ten or so acres and has four horses on it. The buffalo ranch is a mess, it has no dividing fences so the buffalo can roam any where they want and there is very little grass and severe erosion on the hill sides. The horse pasture looks good and with a little ingenuity and Pollywire could look much better. The wether was nasty, wet snow and rain. So we all retreated to the near by Big Boy restaurant to finish up our discussion on grazing ,raising grass fed animals and poultry and the potential markets for this healthy meat and eggs in the area. I do not go out to eat very often maybe one or twice in the past five years. The food is terrible and is full of empty calories. It was strange to to be eating such junk and talking about heathy food at the same time! Today was also market day so then we all went to show Cody our indoor market. He gave us some insight on what he feels is ignorance in the venders concerning marketing their products. He feels they are pricing their products too low, and feels we are 5 years behind in marketing skills compared to his farmers market in Springfield Missouri.
Visiting with Cody after the market closed

Here is the link to Cody Holmes website www.rockinh.net

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Wild Life On The Farm

Today I started on getting one of the fields ready to plant buckwheat. The field is out a ways from the barnyard so I had a chance to observe the wild things from the tractor seat on my way back and forth hauling manure to the field. I saw four different kinds of butterflies a few fritillary, periwinkles, and two other types I had never saw before. Both were small one was orange, and the other was black. After I got the manure spread I was driving out to disc the manure under and I saw a pair of Killdeers with their young. Four of them, newly hatch little fuzz balls the same color as their parents. Hanna took pictures of them and then I took them out a ways from the barnyard so the cats would not find them. It seems early to see Killdeer chicks already but every thing is early this year. The rye I planted last fall is heading out already too! I'v never seen it head out the first week of may. But I have never planted rye before as a grain crop so I do not have any thing to compare it with, but have grown it as a green manure, and a few plant will come back up after I'v tilled it under and go to seed. But this is not until the corn is ankle high in June. So I can't say for sure that it's too early since the rye's growth was not set back by tilling.

This is one of the parent Killdeers trying to distract us away from the chicks

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Corn Planting

Today we planted our field corn. The variety we grow is called Wapesie Valley and is an old open pollenated heirloom dent corn from the 1800's. We have been growing it for 4 years and I have been selecting it to ripen good in our area. It need 1000 growing days to mature well so this gets close to our fall rainy wether. Last year was very wet it rained almost every week! this was good for the corn while it was growing but not during the harvest. Many of the farmers had trouble with there GMO (it should not be called corn) molding or not even ripening. But ours did good and did not mold. Another three cheers for OP corn! and heaps upon heaps of curses on all the GMOs. May a disease attack it's mixed up genes that it fall to the ground wither and die and be remembered no more. One thing I look for when saving the corn seed is the first and biggest ears to tern down in the early fall but since this is a very genetically diverse corn I don't limit it to just this traits, and so when we're husking it I keep out any uniquely colored ears or kernels to keep it this way. Last year I found several ears with sweet corn characteristics (sweet, wrinkled, and clearish ) I know it did not cross with the sweet corn because the ears were found in the middle of the corn field and there was not any sweet corn near by. I'm going to grow it out and see what becomes of it. One thing unique about this corn variety is it colors, its ears ranges from mostly yellow, to orange, red, and dark maroon. So the sweet corn will be these colors too. It will be interesting to see if it works out and maybe I'll be the first to have developed an open pollenated sweet corn with these colors!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

At The Farmer's Markete

To day we all went to one of the farmer's markets in Traverse City to sell our farm products. All went well, we did good on sales despite the low shopper traffic. I think since it was such a warm sunny day not as many customers made their way indoors to the market. While there some friends of ours from Sitka Alaska stopped by to visit with us it was nice seeing some of them (The mother and three of the children) again. They were down for a short stay to see her mother and others in the area. Also another family we know came though the market to shop and we visited for a little while. It was nice to fellowship with both families and hear what they all have been up too and how God is leading them. The one family has a jam and preserves business that uses the wild plants and fruits of Sitka and also a CSA garden, here is their website www.simplepleasuresak.com. And the other family lives near by us on a small 5 acre farm. As their three young children grow older it is nice to see their parents teaching them at home and giving them time to learn practical homesteading skills on their small farm such as gardening, making maple syrup, and hog butchering.
Me waiting for the customers
Me and my father with a large 4# loaf of bread we bought from one of the venders.
my brothers enjoyed their time there playing with folk toys some they made themselves and others were found in a free box at a yard sale.
Mrs Pierce and her three children from Sitka Alaska.