Winter milkweed

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Milkweed is food for the monarch butterfly. As we have reduced the amount of mechanical mowing we do on the farm by using the goats, and also changed how we mow the hay pasture, flowers and plants have been regrowing – and popping up in new places!

This is on the north side of the barn hill – the goats mowed this area last spring.

We’re so pleased to see the wild plants come back – with more milkweed, perhaps we will see more monarchs this year.

Ch…ch…ch…changes…

The good kind of changes. This August, it will be five years since my wife, Keba, and I moved back to Innisfree on the Stillwater and I restarted my coffee roasting business. Since then, we’ve changed and grown, and now is time for the next change: Starting today, I am changing my business name to […]

The good kind of changes.

This August, it will be five years since my wife, Keba, and I moved back to Innisfree on the Stillwater and I restarted my coffee roasting business. Since then, we’ve changed and grown, and now is time for the next change:

Starting today, I am changing my business name to The Roastery at Innisfree to better align what I am doing as a roaster with what I am doing as a farmer. The coffee won’t change. The small batch roasting won’t change. The personal service won’t change. But this change will help us focus even more on what we are doing at Innisfree.

Enjoy your coffee!

DLH

Day 205 – looking like fall

IMG_0327There are a couple of things “wrong” with this picture:

1.  It’s before 8:00 am and the cows/horses are out in the pasture – they’ve been in the barn every morning for the last month or so, and

2.  This morning sky is not a summer morning sky.

We heard cicadas for the first time earlier this month, and it’s said that the frost is about 6 weeks away from that date, which would put our first frost around mid-August.  A lot of people pooh-pooh folk wisdom, but it’s been right too much for me to discount it all.  And I figure it got passed through the years for a reason – things that aren’t true don’t tend to be shared for very long after they’re proven wrong.

 

Day 168 – bush beans

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More food growing – our plot of bush beans.  I just can’t say it enough – fresh food tastes so much better than what you find in the produce aisle (conventional or organic – it’s usually picked before it’s ripe and shipped however many miles from field to grocery).  We’ve gotten spoiled by the proliferation of fruit and veggies that we sometimes forget that at one point, you couldn’t get fresh apples if it wasn’t late summer or fall.  No strawberries in January.

I’m not sure that we’ve improved food by having it available all year long.  I remember what a big deal it was when the local FFA (Future Farmers of America) would send out information to order Florida citrus – boxes of oranges and grapefruit would arrive to be portioned out for the orders.

There’s something good and right about having to wait for something – the first strawberries or tomatoes off the vine, the first green beans snapped into a metal bowl on the porch.  It tastes better, it’s enjoyed more (especially if you grew it yourself and put your time and sweat into it).

It’s a tricky balance – convenience versus anticipation.

 

Day 165 – i see you, chicken

165Some of the hens really like this stand of tall grass next to our house – I’ve been getting 2-3 eggs here every day.  This Buff Orpington hen sits for awhile, goes to eat, walks around, comes back, sits for a little longer, maybe lays an eggs/maybe not, takes a walk, sits down again, and lays an egg if she didn’t before.  Then off she goes and another hen comes along to continue the process.

Not only the humans have routines on the farm – I’m amazed at how routine-driven the animals are. You can just about set your watch to which parts of the pasture (or which pasture) the cows are in during the day.  Recently (because the flies are getting to their summer levels) the cows are in the barn in the morning, work their way out to the back pasture and around it in the afternoon, then head to the front pasture in the evening.  They have their own timetable, which varies throughout the year, but if you pay attention over a few days, you can see the repetition.  The chickens are a little less predictable – they’re everywhere, all the time.  This nest in the grass may get “stale” in a few days, or it could go on for a few more weeks.  Then they move to another area, and I play “Easter egg hunt” once again in the afternoon.

 

Day 52 – a new leaf

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We received notice from the State of Ohio today that our new registered trade name for the farm has been approved. Henceforth, we will be called Innisfree on the Stillwater, a name that reaches back to the farm’s recent and older history while reflecting the new transitions we anticipate as Keba and I take over operations.

This is more than just a name change for us. In being forced to take on a new name, we’re also being forced to recognize what we’ve been doing since we first moved back to the farm three and a half years ago: we’re taking this place over and making it our own. That means something, and we need to show it.

In keeping with that thought, our full name going forward will be:

Innisfree on the Stillwater
A family-run sustainable farm and nature preserve
“Growing in life by growing our food”

Updated websites, Facebook pages, and email addresses will follow.

MENF 2011: We’re all really dirt farmers

Whether we all like it or not, we’re all dirt farmers. You don’t think so? Well, consider this the next time you’re sitting on the pot: you’re finishing the process whereby your body turns the food you have eaten into energy, nutrients, and dirt from which more food can be grown, even if we don’t […] Continue reading

Whether we all like it or not, we’re all dirt farmers. You don’t think so? Well, consider this the next time you’re sitting on the pot: you’re finishing the process whereby your body turns the food you have eaten into energy, nutrients, and dirt from which more food can be grown, even if we don’t like to think of it that way in the 21st century.

Dirt is the medium of exchange for life on earth. It is an amazing material, composed of hundreds and sometimes thousands of constituents all necessary for life to exist. Nearly every living thing produces dirt in some form and nearly nothing can survive without dirt to help it grow or help the things it needs to eat grow.

This idea is important because it is so foreign to modern people, especially in the west and especially in the 21st century. In this era of artificially pristine food gleaming in supermarket displays, an era dominated by the absurd reduction of food growing to chemical applications to a growth medium, we forget that all food–indeed, all life–begins and ends with the dirt.

And healthy dirt is the best kind. If dirt is the medium of exchange for life, then humans are the custodians of the exchange, and we do a really bad job. How so? For instance, as much as half the trash buried in landfills every year, 125 million tons by some estimates, is organic waste that could be composted into dirt instead of being put into a landfill. Even worse, most landfill practices prevent this waste from turning into dirt, meaning that there is waste in landfills from as long as 50 years ago that still has not decayed.

While we’re busy burying our organic waste instead of composting it, farmers are busy dumping a whopping 60 million tons of chemical fertilizer on their crops every year, most of which comes from oil or is produced using fossil fuels for energy. Farmers do this because the dirt they try to grow in is only fit for growing weeds without help.

Help that could come in the form of hundreds of millions of tons of biologically active, incredibly fertile compost if we would stop throwing it away and start putting it back where it belongs: into the dirt.

So, consider this: stop throwing your organic waste away. I’m talking about all of it: food scraps-even bones and fat, paper, cardboard, or anything like it. If it came from a plant or animal, it’s probably organic. Then, compost that stuff. If you don’t want to or can’t compost it, find someone who will and can.

It can be done. We can even compost our own waste along with the rest, ensuring that it all goes where it is supposed to go: back into the dirt where it belongs, just like it was supposed to all along.

DLH

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