Pallet fence

I needed to fence off the beehives from the rest of what used to be the chicken yard (soon to be re-fenced as a small pasture for animals), and wanted something that would provide a nice windbreak from the sometimes strong west winds we get. Pallets, t posts, and some sweat equity (always part of the equation around here) got the job done.

I still need to build a gate (where the big hole is!), and will most likely reinforce the fence by screwing the pallets together, but the nice weather over the last few days was just enough to keep the ground soft, making it much easier to drive the posts. I was able to lift most of the pallets over the posts myself (no easy feat when it’s breezy, and I’m shorter than the t posts!), and Denny assisted with the heaver pallets. Some of the t posts aren’t quite as far in as they should be due to roots and rocks, but reinforcing the pallets should help keep everything upright.

It works well as a windbreak, which will keep the bees happy, and any animals we put in that pasture won’t be able to bother the hives.

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And so much more…

I’ve discovered over the past five years that people have huge preconceptions about what being a farmer means. I know, coming in, I had all sorts of them, and I know I am surrounded by fellow farmers who have deeply … Continue reading

I’ve discovered over the past five years that people have huge preconceptions about what being a farmer means. I know, coming in, I had all sorts of them, and I know I am surrounded by fellow farmers who have deeply held ideas about their profession. One of my first posts on this site dealt with one of them, and dredged up the almost predictable responses (I’m not linking to it simply because I want to talk about something else).

One of the preconceptions I had coming in was the nature of what farm work meant in the first place. Many people, including my onetime self, have the idea that farming is as simple as growing and harvesting a crop or raising and selling an animal. I’m here to tell you firsthand that, whatever kind of farming one does, that could not be further from the truth.

Even at its most monoculture, farming is a polyculture because it cannot be anything else. Farming demands knowledge of everything from agriculture to zoology and demands the farmer be everything from an accountant to a zoo keeper.

It’s not an accident, then, that history notes the rise of farming intertwined with the rise of what we think of as civilization. Domesticating, planting, raising, harvesting, and slaughtering plants and animals for food in more effective and efficient ways is the necessary mother that gave rise to everything we take for granted today, either by inventing the things we have or by enabling the things we have to be invented.

And so, in the end, I can think of few other undertakings as intensive and broad as that of the farmer. Granted, the hurdles are tall and the valleys are deep, but if anyone wants to fully challenge himself in the pursuit of life, the vocation of farmer is a place to do it.

DLH

Five years on: Disasters, reevaluations, and the straight and narrow

There are few things like a disaster of one’s own making to cause one to reevaluate. We’ve had more than a few disasters, big and small, since we came back to Innisfree on the Stillwater. They kind of come with … Continue reading

There are few things like a disaster of one’s own making to cause one to reevaluate.

We’ve had more than a few disasters, big and small, since we came back to Innisfree on the Stillwater. They kind of come with the territory of taking over this kind of an enterprise and learning on the fly.

While disasters can sometimes be setbacks and can also be demoralizing, we also use them as a chance to evaluate what we are doing and come up with ways to do them better, not just to correct a specific mistake but also to ensure that our approach is the best one to use.

The result is a cycle of disaster, reevaluation, and recommitment. It would be easy to give up when things go wrong, but nobody ever said what we are doing was going to be easy. Instead, we figure out how to do what we are doing better and move on.

In the end, that’s the only way to succeed at farming.

DLH

Back to work

After several weeks of illness, we are (mostly) back in the saddle, just in time for the warm weather!

Lots of things start happening in the spring – clearing bits of tree that have fallen off over the winter, chainsawing scrub trees and bushes that are in the way (especially in the way of where my new herb garden will be!), planning the garden and making sure to have the seeds we need, gearing up for the summer market season, brushing the Pyrs (they have a *very* thick winter coat to shed out), and continuing work on cleaning up inside buildings. It’s a lot of work, but the warmth and sunshine really do make it more tolerable.

It truly seems that we’ve had more flooding over the last year – this is from our latest flood in early April. The river has gone down to a more normal level, but the ground is so saturated that we still have large “ponds” in the low fields. Thankful that it didn’t get higher than what you see here!

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The test of time

I recently discovered that the building housing my coffee roastery is falling down. It’s an old brick garage, quite possibly converted from a carriage house at some point, that had the misfortune of taking a direct hit from a barn … Continue reading

I recently discovered that the building housing my coffee roastery is falling down. It’s an old brick garage, quite possibly converted from a carriage house at some point, that had the misfortune of taking a direct hit from a barn roof that blew off a decade ago. We’ve nursed it along to this point, making repairs along the way, but now the needed repairs are far more serious.

My first instinct was to seek out a professional to see how much it would cost to repair it, but then something odd happened.

I looked at the building.

If you could see it–I haven’t taken pictures, so you’ll have to take my word for this–you’d realize like I did that the people who put up that building in the first place weren’t professionals in the way we think of them today–that is, as specialists. The bricks aren’t always quite straight. The mortar work isn’t perfect.

In fact, most of our farm wasn’t built by professionals. It was built by the people who lived here. Ofttimes, they learned as they went, sometimes under the tutelage of someone who already knew, but just as often they just figured it out on their own. The did what they did out of necessity and need.

And the work they did has been good enough to last more than a century. We have a corn crib that could date back to the 1820s, built from hand-hewn beams. Our house was built in the 1840s, likely by the people who lived here from bricks fired right down the road . Our barn was built in the 1860s by the same people. And that garage probably dates to the 1880s.

What I saw when I looked at that garage was the labor of people who cared about this farm the way that I do. It’s not perfect. The years have taken their toll. But it was work they did that stood the test of time.

And it is work I can do too.

So, instead of hiring a professional or knocking it down to put up some ugly, sterile modern building, I’m going to teach myself masonry. I’m going to learn how to rebuild a garage they built 140 years ago. And maybe, somewhere along the line, I’ll have the chance to share what I know with others who want to know.

And that idea, I think, is what this farm is all about. I’m thankful I looked a that not quite straight wall with its not quite perfect mortar. It taught me something, and it’s a lesson I plan to learn.

DLH

Taking the plunge!

While my wife and I have been living and working on Innisfree for the last three and a half years, it has always been something of a part-time job until now. Late last year, we paid off the last of … Continue reading

While my wife and I have been living and working on Innisfree for the last three and a half years, it has always been something of a part-time job until now. Late last year, we paid off the last of our outstanding debt and as a result, we have decided to have both of us working on the farm as our primary occupation.

While this may sound idyllic, the fact is that it is a leap of faith and a huge risk. Even in the best of circumstances, farming is not a high paying occupation, and the cost of living modern life is higher than most people realize. Nevertheless, it is a risk we are willing and able to take.

Here’s to hoping and to the future!

DLH

Spring is in the air, which means mud on my knees

I haven’t disappeared: I”ve been farming. As you might imagine, spring is a busy time of year. This year started with banding steers and selling off our excess calves, interspersed with planting our garden. We got our next load of … Continue reading

I haven’t disappeared: I”ve been farming.

As you might imagine, spring is a busy time of year. This year started with banding steers and selling off our excess calves, interspersed with planting our garden. We got our next load of 75 meat chicken peeps in (they’ll be ready in Septemberish) and we’ll be adding to our laying flock in the next month or so.

We built a mobile pen system for our mowing goats, which makes moving them from place to place much easier than it was last year. I hope to detail that undertaking in a separate post.

Also, the warm spring means haying time is already here, and we’ll probably have our first cutting down in the next few weeks.

What kind of food production activities does spring bring for you? Let me know in the comments.

DLH

Spring is in the air, which means mud on my knees

I haven’t disappeared: I”ve been farming. As you might imagine, spring is a busy time of year. This year started with banding steers and selling off our excess calves, interspersed with planting our garden. We got our next load of 75 meat chicken peeps in (they’ll be ready in Septemberish) and we’ll be adding to […]

I haven’t disappeared: I”ve been farming.

As you might imagine, spring is a busy time of year. This year started with banding steers and selling off our excess calves, interspersed with planting our garden. We got our next load of 75 meat chicken peeps in (they’ll be ready in Septemberish) and we’ll be adding to our laying flock in the next month or so.

We built a mobile pen system for our mowing goats, which makes moving them from place to place much easier than it was last year. I hope to detail that undertaking in a separate post.

Also, the warm spring means haying time is already here, and we’ll probably have our first cutting down in the next few weeks.

What kind of food production activities does spring bring for you? Let me know in the comments.

DLH

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