Entries in Farm Projects (22)

Thursday
Jan162014

open & real

One of the core missions of our farm is to connect people to their food.  We are committed to being open and real with our customers during each step of us growing healthy and nutritious food for their families.  Open to questions.  Real with our answers.  Open to visits.  Real with the tours.  Open to sharing our daily life.  Real with the stories.  for better or worse, we take all our own pics :)

We hold the belief firmly that being open and real is the only way to run our farm. Did you know every single image we post about our farm is taken by us, on our land?  We want you to see the real environment, the real animals.  Not just some pretty or cute picture.  

Not long ago, we saw a local farm share a picture of a turkey in a lush pasture, yet we know from experience that the farm does not raise their turkeys on pasture and felt very misled.  Granted, the farmer did not state the turkey was his, but in sharing the image, the implication was there.  The problem we see with that is that buyers are not buying what they believe they are buying.  This can hurt all small farms because it can erode the trust consumers have in buying food directly from a farm.

We think it is critically important to know your farmer.  To know what is going on.  To know how the animals are being treated.  And we know you cannot be here every day, so we share with you on the blog and on facebook and by emails.  

We know that by being open and real with you, you are able to make informed decisions about the food you feed your family.  We consider ourselves to be "customer certified" rather than relying on USDA or other third party certifications.  

We encourage you to ask your farmer questions, visit your farmer on the farm, and be aware of their online communications.  It takes a little time, but we think it's essential to trusting your farmers and being connected with your food.

What are your thoughts?  Have you visited a farm?  Is it important to you to have open conversations with your farmer?

Wednesday
Sep052012

recent FAQ, surviving the summer

a spectacular summer skyAnother few minutes to share the answers to some recent FAQ we've been getting.

Q How did you survive the summer without a/c? It was soooo hot!

A Well, I figure if we could survive this hot, drought-filled summer, we can probably manage most years. Our house is old, and designed pretty well for natural ventilation. We are truly comfortable inside until the temps get into the triple digits outside. At that point, I managed the south windows, used ceiling fans and transom windows and drank a lot of water. I can hardly believe I am saying this, but you really do get used to it. When there is no 'escape' into a nice, cool room, you deal with it and move on. Having a window unit would be harder in some ways because we'd want to retreat to that room and stay there. Who knows what next summer will bring, but we were pleased with our ability to survive a/c-less this year.

Q How is painting the house going?

A Our big summer project was to repaint the house. After two months of replacing rotten wood and scraping off what was left of the old paint, we used a paint sprayer to prime and paint the whole house in about 2 days. Loved that big change! I've painted some of the trimwork, but have lots left. We also have a lot of touch-up spots to tend to where the sprayer didn't reach as well. But, we really like the new colors (think chocolate) and the house itself looks much refreshed.

Q Do your eggs taste different?

A We think so and customers have said so as well. Being pastured and free range, they are often much different than store offerings. Even a store organic egg only indicates organic feed, not access to the outdoors, which is such a huge part of our chickens lives and we believe a huge part of the flavor profile. Try some and see for yourself!

Q Speaking of eggs, do you have eggs for sale?

A Though we are not shouting it from the barn rooftop just yet, we are getting several dozen eggs each week. We are happy to meet up with you in the city or arrange a time for farm pick-up. We have a whole second flock that will start to lay very soon and then our egg offerings will be better still.

Q Do you have any farm experience? Why did you start a farm anyway?

A Why yes, I can answer with pride that we now have 9 months of farm experience. Visitors are often surprised to find out we didn't grow up on a farm or have grandparents that farmed. Instead, our inspiration came during dinner one evening, as Jeff and I were discussing options for better aligning our physical space with our values, and a naturally-minded farm emerged as a very real option. With some planning and saving, we moved forward with that idea and jumped in whole-heartedly. The ups and downs on the farm are very real, more so for newbies perhaps, but if we hadn't jumped in and moved forward, we wouldn't be any closer to our goal, so we are glad we were able to make the change in a relatively short time period.

Q Are there a lot of bugs and yucky stuff on the farm?

A Yes. It took a while to convince the mice that new residents have moved in after an 18mo vacancy. We check regularly for ticks, Jeff being the consistent winner in that department. We see snakes and moles and skunks and giant grasshoppers and lizards. There's a lot of spiders. We have a lot of poison ivy, especially on one side of the house (luckily, no one in our family reacts to it!). Oddly, we do not have mosquitos. I thought it was just a good year for no mosquitos until I visited a friend in the city. We sat outside for a half hour and got tons of bites whereas on the farm, I haven't got out the bug spray once.

This summer, our daughter noticed a small snake in the kitchen. It was stuck on some tape and upon seeing it, our daughter gasped and ran off. She wasn't running in fright though, she was excited to get her snake identification book and look at it closely as it wouldn't be able to slither away. We relocated the snake outside and fortunately have not seen any more snakes in the house. In the house crosses a line for this city-girl turned farmer. Generally though, there is enough space for the creepy crawlies to have their space and us to have ours, so we happily coexist.

Share a comment with any questions you'd like me to address in a future FAQ. It's a potpourri of thoughts and info which is how my brain likes to work!

Sunday
Jul292012

Kansas City Drought -- Effects on the farm

We've all been hearing about the drought.  The worst two year period of dryness and heat in Kansas history -- even worse than the dust-bowl years -- and it's the year we choose to start a grass based farm. I have always had great timing like that.  

The "grass based" is an important consideration in how our farm is effected.  Every animal on our farm is connected through the pastures.  The cows, the pigs, the chickens, the turkeys and the hens all rely on grass for food and without that grass, a keystone of our farm is lost.  

In June and July our farm received .43 inches of rain.  We average 10 inches during those months in a normal year.  This means, when the grass should have been growing gangbusters in June, it just sat there.  No regrowth. On our farm, we practice rotational grazing.  The cows get a small prescribed amount of pasture for one day -- then do not return to that pasture until it has completely regrown.  In a normal type year -- they might return every 4 - 6 weeks.  This year, the grass that was grazed once in May has not regrown at all.   This has had a huge effect on all of our animals.  

Our poultry and pigs get supplemental grain, so we have been able to compensate for the lack of grass by giving them more grain.  This has a considerable cost to the farm though as our grain prices have doubled since early Spring. In addition, the heat has slowed the growth of our birds, caused them to lay less eggs and we have even had some losses due to heat related stress.

Our cows are the most directly effected.  They eat grass and only grass.  I have had to be very tight with their pastures and not allow any excess and have been grazing areas of the farm where I typically might not graze them - such as woods and other nooks and crannys.  The heat has been very hard on the animals and has been difficult to manage daily pasture rotations, while also providing shade for them to rest in.  Because we use no pharmaceutical wormers, we have to be constantly diligent that they never have the same bed two nights in a row.  There is only so much shade and grass and we are running out.  Right now I have about 35 days of pasture left.  If we do not receive considerable rain before then, I will be forced to start feeding hay at an incredible daily expense and then be forced to find more hay for this winters feeding - at proabbly triple the normal cost of hay.  It will make things tough for sure.  In addition, the heat has been directly connected to the loss of one our best cows - Valeska.  She died from an illness, assumed to be a virus that she was unable to fight off likely due to the stress of the heat in addition to the virus.  The loss of a cow is a several thousand dollar loss, the loss of her calf every year for all upcoming years is tremendous and the emotional toll is even larger.  

Our garden has survived, dare I say even thrived, depite the heat.  However, this come at a large expense of hundreds of dollars in paid-for water to supplement the thousands of gallons we have pumped out of our well - which is now too dry to use. The heat has made things more difficult to grow though and has magnified the insect problems which only grow faster and reproduce quicker in hot weather.   I chose not to irrigate our corn patch and have pretty much written it off. It is about 2.5 feet tall and already showing signs of maturity -- with no ears.  The garden has been twice the work of normal and has yielded about half as many vegetables as a normal year.  

For our family the drought has effected us as well.  Our house does not have A/C so we have had a rather sudden adjustment on how you manage your life differntly when 95 degrees is a normal evening in-house temperature and you hope the temp is below 90 by the time its bedtime.  Additionaly, because of the drought, the amount of time neded to take care of the animals and the garen has atleast doubled, which hass reduced the time we could work on other projects, take trips or go on family outings.  

When we lived in the city, heat and lack of rain meant that our flowers weren't quite as pretty or that we might need to water our lawn a little bit extra.  WOW - how our perspective has changed.   However, none of this had dampened our spirits of farmers.  We still love showing the farm to others and sharing how great food can be raised.  Also, I have absolute faith that the way we are choosing to farm - in harmony with natural systems, will allow our animals and our farm to adjust to whatever the future holds.    

Thursday
May172012

new pics!

friends exclaim over the cuteness of little chicksWe recently added some new pics to the 'Farm Life Images' section of our site.  Check it out!

If you have suggestions for other pictures to include, do let us know.  We love to capture moments on the farm!

 We've also added a category list to make searching by topic easier.  It's at the bottom of the right hand column, under the facebook and twitter scrolls.  You can still 'search' at the top of the right hand column as usual.

Wednesday
Mar142012

Spring Break -- Time to Get Chores Done

 

I have a long list of chores to get done on the farm during my Spring Break week.  Luckily, my ankle is on the mend and I should be able to get alot done.

 Here is a glimpse at the Farms Project list.

  • Build Pasture Pens for broilers. Will need 12 total this season.  Must have 4 Done before May.  These are the pens designed to allow us to safely grow our young chickens on pastures while giving them fresh new grass each day.  

 

  • Get brooder ready for chicks arriving this week.  This means cleaning them out, removing old straw that has been composting since last chicks were there, checking and prepping heat lamps, waters and feeders - adding new bedding and checking that they are secure from predators.

  • Repair yard and seed where new septic system was installed this Winter. 

Attempted this early in the week, but this is what happens when you try to work when it is toooo wet!

 


  • Prep garden beds for planting.  

  • Begin work on "eggmobile."  This is the mobile hen house that will be rotated through the fields and allow the hens to free range on fresh forage.

  • Start green house for garden area.  This will be a 12' x 20' greenhouse to allow us to plant more vegetables and extend our growing season. 

  • Hang porch swing.  This was an exciting birthday present for Laura and she is eagerly awaiting the chance to rest in it while watching the sunset over the pastures. 

  •  Hang childrens swing.  Another present that is awaiting installation to begin enjoyment.  

  • Soil Test pastures and garden so that we can make decisions on nutrient amendments.  

  • Fix locks on various barn doors to make them easier to use. 

  • Cut firewood (just in case winter isn't completely over)

  • Make a trek over to frog pond on neighboring property.  We can hear what sounds like 1,000,000 frogs and would be interested to see what "a million" frogs look like.  

  • Have friends come and visit.

  • Clear large rock/dirt pile left in the pasture from earlier work.

  • Begin incubating new chicken eggs,  these will be Buckeyes.  A rare heritage breed known for being able to forage on pasture well and producing amazingly nutritious and delicious eggs --- as well as being exceptional mousers.

  • Watch movie with wife.  

  • Update website blog

  • Write guest blog post for farm-dreams.com

  • Prep room for temporary home for cats we will be adopting.  

 

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