Entries in Farm Projects (22)


Somebody is getting rich on the farm - but not who you think!

Organic Weed Control Can Be EXPENSIVE
We often like to think that when you follow such strict and environmentally friendly practices as ours -- you would never have weeds in your pastures.  For the most part -- this is true.

Partly because of our definition of weeds is a bit different than a lot of people.  We like variety in our pastures and so they include a lot of different forbs and plants that add variety to our cattle's diet.  This picture is a good representation of our pasture and includes at least a dozen different plants that all bring healthy nutrition for the animals and the pastures.

However, we do still struggle with some weeds.  One weed which we really do not like because it seems to serve no purpose on our land, the cattle don't eat it and it pokes us as we drive around is Musk Thistle.  

They are a beautiful plant that can spread quickly through pastures if not controlled.  The county suggested control is to use herbicides to spray them.  However, since we use no sprays on our farm at all we have to find another way.  


We pay the girls a bounty for each bloom they cut and bring back to the house dead in a bucket.  Since Musk thistles are a biennial, they only spread by seed,  If we cut the blooms off, the plant is never able to propagate and since each plant can spread over 10,000 seeds - that's a lot of propagating that can happen.

Everyone has pitched in and just this evening the three girls cut 1680 blooms (16,800,000 seeds for those that are counting).]

Funny story, the first time I sent Elise out to cut blooms I thought 25 cents per bloom was a reasonable bounty.  Elise was 8 and she went out with her gloves and scissors and when she returned less than an hour later with a bucket full -- I knew we were in trouble, or at least my wallet was.  Once we had counted up her blooms she had collected over $60 worth of blooms.  Although we honored the price quoted for that batch of blooms, we quickly renegotiated the price down to 5 cents per bloom.

After tonight's harvest where the girls averaged around $30/hour for their work, Laura and I decided to renegotiate prices once again and they will now be 3 cents per bloom.  It adds up quickly!

Our efforts have paid off there are dramatically fewer thistles in our pastures then there were just a few years back -- and not one drop of chemical used -- just quite a bit of sweat :)



March has been a busy month on the farm.  As foretold to you last month, we have received our first batches of baby chicks on the farm.  It always takes quite a bit of planning to ensure that the hundreds and hundreds of birds that we raise all come at the right time to utilize our available brooder space, pasture rotations, and then processing dates.  In addition, we also have to ensure that our food deliveries match amounts we need for the birds at different stages of their lives.  

We are trying a few new things in our brooder and have had great results.  The primary difference is that we are using peat moss instead of wood chips. Information we gained from attending a few intensive poultry raising workshops this winter indicated there are several benefits to using peat moss.  We have found it to be a great bedding for the chicks while they are in the brooder.



Leasing land for our cattle

It has been an exceptionally beautiful fall, full of nice weather and adequate rainfall. This had made our pastures look especially good as they begin preparations to head into winter.  We want a nice, healthy stand of thick grass going into winter because that ensures we have great grass coming into Spring.  

One of the ways we ensure this is making sure all our pastures get the rest they need to recover from their previous grazing.  In our rotational grazing system, the ground has a high degree of impact for a very short amount of time.  For cattle, this means they are only on any one particular piece of land for one day before being moved to the next pasture.  After one day of heavy impact, the ground then recovers for anywhere from 30 - 180 days before once again having one day of impact.  This form of grazing mimics nature and how grasslands were created with the gigantic herds of migrating bison.   They would come through an area, eat it down and plow it up with their hooves - but then move on.  This periodic disturbance followed by time to rest creates robust and healthy ecosystems.  

As our cattle herd continues to grow every year, we have begun utilizing pastures around us.  It has been so good to find pastures around us that have been untreated and unused for many years and begin to heal them simply with the power of naturally managed grazing.  We can then lease this land from our neighbors -- giving previously unused land some real value for land they were not utilizing.  There is a fair amount of work involved in moving cattle around to these different pastures, however.    Today was one of those days.  We needed to gather all of the cattle which were in one pasture about 10 miles away, load them in a trailer and then move them to a new pasture that is directly across the road from our farm.  

To gather the cattle, first, we have to construct a temporary corral.  

This is where lots of great pictures would go of the rest of the process.  But...as often happens, once the work actually starts, I don't have the presence of mind to pull out my camera.  

So - I'll be brief in my wordy description.  After we put these panels together into a corral, we then bring the cattle into the corral, back the trailer up to the corral and coax the cattle to enter the trailer in an orderly fashion.  Sometimes they go in really easily, other times they require lots of patience and persuasion.  Our trailer can hold 10 - 12 cattle -- so it takes a few loads to transport the whole herd.  Moving the cattle is usually an all-day affair and today was no different.

The land they are grazing on now has not been grazed or used for anything for several years.  Previously it was CRP grass.  CRP is a government program that pays landowners money to allow land to stay fallow for several years.  This program is losing popularity and most farms, like our neighbors, are no longer part of the program.  They now have land that has been essentially not touched for the last 10 years.  I am very excited to see how it reacts to some grazing.  The grass there will be nutritious and delicious for the cattle.  Our plan is they will be on this pasture for several weeks before moving across the street back to our home farm.  Once back on our farm, we will need to start feeding hay as winter will be in full swing.  

Leasing neighbors land and turning into rich, productive, healthy organically managed pastures is just one way your support as a customer is slowly changing the world acre by acre.  By choosing to spend your food dollars on agriculture that supports the world you want your children to grow up in, you are radically affecting the future in a way much more effective and profound than any other form of radical protest.   



I almost guarantee your initial reaction to this post in the ground is not nearly as impressed as you should be when you knew the dozens of hours spent digging one hole for it to go into.

The focus this week on the farm was building some new fencing on the farm   When we bought the property it had barely adequate perimeter fencing around the property that we have continued to use with only minimal repairs.  However, almost immediately, we saw the usefulness of some strategic interior fencing on the farm that would help us divide the farm up.  We made plans, discussed them, revised them and planned some more.  After five years, we were ready to build some of the fencings.  Every day this week, long hours were spent by Dad and I digging fence posts for the new fencing.

We have settled on high tensile fencing.  A relatively new type of fencing that uses smooth wire made from very high strength steel. It is similar to the typical barb wire fences you see but does not have the sharp barbs and because it is made with much stronger steel that is pulled very tightly -- it needs far fewer poles.  However, the poles that are there, must be particularly strong.

Like many projects -- the first step has taken 80% of the time and the subsequent steps of putting the actual wire up will happen relatively quickly.  The first step was setting the posts on either end, called the braces.  They consist of two holes 8-10 feet apart with a horizontal cross-member in between.  It takes a brace at the beginning and end of each side of the fence to be strong enough to resist the pulling force of the wire for the next 30 years without ever slipping.  To make these braces secure you must sink the poles in the ground a minimum of 42"  This would be easy in some fields -- in our farm's extremely rock ground it has proven exceptionally difficult.  

We started with an auger on the back of our large 45hp tractor.  It goes down in the ground wonderfully and dug a beautiful 18" hole before it hit solid rock and would go no further.  We (Dad and I) fought with that auger for a day plus and still on our first hole before we decided we needed a bigger tool.  We ended up renting a jackhammer.  This worked fairly well but was still very slow.  Essentially after another entire day of jackhammering, we were done with one entire hole -- down a full 42".  The main problem with the jackhammer is that it is very difficult to jackhammer a 42" hole with a jackhammer that is only 38" tall.  The entire jackhammer is on the ground and your hole has had to become very wide to fit the entire jackhammer into the hole.  Plus, the feats of strength needed to jackhammer below your feet made getting 12 holes dug like this unlikely.  So we again moved up in tool.  

Grandpa working hard as he uses his equipmentpiloting skills to work the rock auger.  

This time, we rented a skid steer with a specially made rock auger.  This did the trick.  Using the weight of the machine and the HP of the auger, we were able to bore through the rock down to our required depth.  It took a couple hours per hole of near constant drilling but we made it to the required depth and I feel very confident that the poles we set in the ground will still be sturdy 30 years from now.

This is the tip of the 250-pound rock bit that can drill straight down through solid rock

This is what a  42" deep hole dug through solid rock looks like. 

Today we strung the first of six wires.  Since every part of buildings high-tensile fence is new to me and I have nobody to look to for advice -- I turn to the modern-day farmer's almanac -- YOUTUBE.  Each new step, I watch a  few videos and then go and try it on my own.  It has worked very well.  You'll have to let us know what you think next time you are down on the farm.

Our oldest daughter helped with setting the wire on the smaller interior line posts.


It's FREEZING on the Farm!

Flying Freezer


One thing that is an unavoidable aspect of being purveyors of fine meat is you are also in the freezer maintenance business.  We are constantly looking at the most efficient and cost effective way of storing our products before they are purchased.  Now that we are running a CSA, which gives members regular year-round supplies of our premium cuts, it means we also have to keep more inventory stored safely.  We have slowly built a collection of several freezers to keep all of our meat frozen until we deliver to eager eaters.

We recently picked up several commercial freezers from a  local grocery store that had gone out of business.  The picture shows one freezer, a typical ice storage freezer but it will work great for storing meat -- It's HUGE!  

As is usual, one little project -- buying a couple new freezers -- leads to another bigger project.   In this case, the larger project was rearranging the arrangement of the freezers so they would be more centrally located in one area and we added two new electrical circuits and installed several new outlets so all the freezers are on dedicated and independent circuits that add extra protection from anything happening to our meat.  We started this project last week during a cool rainy day and ended it today in a not so cool and much less wet day (as long as you don't count the sweat running down both of our faces).  I guess maybe we should have climbed into one of those freezers to test it out.  


Synergistic Acres - 21733 Iliff Rd, Parker, KS 66072 - 913-735-4769
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