We are honored to a part of the statewide Festival of Farms this coming Saturday with two tours on our farm. The Crow River Chapter of Sustainable Farming Association is also sponsoring two other locations, in Hutchinson, the same day.
The two tours at our farm each have a different emphasis:
This tour will be a general overview of the farm for the public and interested farmers, and will feature such things as:
- Gourmet Garlic, and other root vegetables
- Rotational Grazing for cattle and pastured chickens
- The ongoing Conservation Work that started with Mariénne’s father in the 1940s
This tour is offered as a cooperative venture of Keep Cattle In Minnesota, the Minnesota Dairy Initiative, the Pasture Project, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Sustainable Farming Association, and is intended for farmers, ag educators and members of the public who are interested in conservation, soil health and creative ways to run cattle on smaller acreage. Features:
- In-depth looks at a rotational grazing system
- Smaller acreage cover crops
- Raising replacement heifers and direct marketed beef
- Soil & water conservation practices and programs
- These Crow River tours are sponsored in part by Farm Beginnings, a farmer-led, community based training and support program from The Land Stewardship Project aimed at getting more farmers on the land farming sustainably.
So, come on out and take a look around!
Everything we’d normally have planted much earlier is finally in the ground and coming up. Donald Fagan’s song, “Walk Between the Raindrops” kept playing in my head, but the lyrics ran something like, “We plant between the raindrops ’til we get done”.
We have 40 head of cattle – plus the two new “Texas Pinzgauer Highland” calves, Orbit and Penuche – in two herds on the pasture, which, with the excess moisture and organic amendments, is as lush as I’ve ever seen it. Penuche was sickly at first, but is slowly recovering. That’s him in the picture with his “other moms” (Mariénne took the picture, but she has given him most of the TLC.)
One tragic event for us this spring: something killed about 3/4 of our pastured laying hens in broad daylight, all in a span of less than 3 hours. I’ll spare the gory details – actually, there aren’t many since we’ve yet to find the bodies – but suffice to say that we have moved the survivors back to the homestead. Thanks to the goodness of Becky Bravinder (Dan & Becky’s Market), who is selling us hens and pullets, we hope to be back in the egg business again soon. But they won’t be “pastured” eggs this summer: we can’t take the risk of putting them back out there until the “nonpaying customers” go away. The hens – and new rooster, King Richard – will be still outdoors all day, in a very nice run, and guarded by fences and our dogs.
A sure sign of spring for us is seeing the first garlic sprouts, which happened on April 12th. It was certainly the hardest winter this Southern boy has ever experienced, and Willard, the 91-year-old patriarch here, harkens back to the 1930′s when trying to one-up this one.
But (hopefully) this, too, has passed, and we can safely “speak of the spring, and foison of the year”, as Mr. Shakespeare would have it. Grass is timidly greening, though there are still patches of snow in protected areas; chickens are suddenly laying lots of eggs, the rooster is busy, and we’re expecting our first highland calves soon. Fences are being repaired and new ones erected, “frost seeding” is complete, and Titania the Border Collie is ecstatic – of course, she was ecstatic at 20 below as well. Robins, redwing blackbirds, sandhill cranes are back, and it won’t be long until it’s mosquito season.
An early November snowfall covers us in white. It’s lovely, and we didn’t need to go anywhere (except chores), so we enjoyed it for the most part.
We’re starting our breeding herd of beef cattle! Our “Texas Highlanders”, Minnie and Socks, arrived two days ago and have been trying to settle in. They’re duking it out with Ebb and Flow, the current resident freemartins, and every one but Flow has taken a romp outside the fence, which has made for a stressful couple of days. But they appear to be working it out, and once the pecking order is established among them, things should settle down.
I call them “Texas Highlanders” because they are 1/4 Texas Longhorn and 3/4 Scottish Highland. The herd they come from is thriving on grass only, and I’m hoping these two girls (they are yearling heifers, possibly already bred – we’ll know soon) will give us some pasture-loving calves. We intend to keep breeding them to Highlanders, though it is a new experience having horns on this farm.
Titania, the border collie, is beside herself with glee in the snow, and is the family member most ready for winter. If my garlic was mulched, I’d be ready, too; but neighbor Kevin assures me we’ll have a string of dry, warm days yet.
Mother Nature didn’t think that our original plan for planting garlic was acceptable – 2.5″ of rain in the days before the appointed time, sleet, rain and snow on the days of – so we’re regrouping for:
Sat. Oct. 26, 9:00 a.m.
Sun. October 27, 1:00 p.m.
Same sumptuous lunch and resplendent tea time. Join us!
Before I wax poetic about garlic again, let me say this:
We’ll be planting garlic on October 19th and 20th! Come join us!
Sat., 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., with a sumptuous farm lunch,
Sun., 1:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. with a resplendent tea time.
It’s been a difficult two years for garlic in the upper midwest: we had a never-before-seen infestation that whupped up on most, if not all, of the growers. If you want the gory scientific details, go here.
But we’re past all that now, and, all things being equal, we will have more of the world’s best allium ophioscorodon next summer for your table and garden.
Some of the Survivors: Me AND the Garlic!
We managed to save some of our original Armenian, Music and German Porcelain plants, and we will rebuild from that good-as-gold seed stock. So glad we were able to rescue their genetics!
We hope to see you the 19th or 20th!
MN Garlic Festival was yesterday, and we finally have time to do a Summer post. We didn’t have any garlic to sell, but we have some great seed stock from the plants that survived last year’s Aster Yellows infestation, and we’ll be back in the game next year.
The big hail storm barely missed us last week, but we had a terrific light show – just when I thought the root cellar couldn’t get any prettier. What a beautiful planet we live on!
We’re starting to harvest onions and, once they’re cured, we’ll be selling them. Summer is in full swing, though cooler than last year. The beef cattle are fattening up, and we still have some quarters available. Squash is coming along, and then there will be potatoes.
Interns Robert and Sami have left, so autumn can’t be too far away. Oddly, I love it when the days get shorter.