Saturday, September 14, 2013

Around the farm summary

Here's what's going on in the farm today...

Flood season preparation
We're 60 days from the start of the flood season, and I'm working hard to make sure that everything that could be affected by flood is all taken care of.  For the ebey island property, my first farm, that means that I've been tearing down an old trailer and moving implements to the new farm.  I recycle what I can, save some of the lumber for use or burning, and send the rest to the dump.  Unfortunately, I've had a problem with people dumping stuff at the farm, so I'll add to my list some ecology blocks to block off the farm roads so people don't dump stuff on them.   This will be the first flood season in the last 8 years that I won't have to do the annual flood drill, and be 4 hours or less from the farm from November to February.  I'm really looking forward to it. 

new farm; repairing and improving the barns for animal/human comfort
At the new farm I've been working on making things more comfortable for the animals during the rainy season; stockpiling bedding chips and making sure that the barn roofs don't leak where we're going to be housing animals, and running a few more outlets and lights so that we can work when its dark.  Most of the outlets and lights are in the farrowing area, heatpads for the piglets, LED lights to make the work easier for the farmer.  Arranging the pens so that they're easier to clean between farrowings. 

zoning and regulatory issues related to initiative 502/rercreational marijuana growing
I've been spending one to two days a week following the zoning issues through Snohomish county; I spent a couple of hours today drafting a letter for the planning commission related to zoning issues for farms interested in commercial marijuana production.  My feel is that you'll probably have to have a 5 to 10 acre lot minimum, but I'd like to see smaller lot sizes be usable.  So I'm arguing that point in my letter. 

Final harvest and winter cover crops
I want to get my fall cover crops and test plots planted before too long here; to do that I'll need to do the final harvest of sweet corn and then turn the pigs loose on the corn field so that they can eat anything they wish before it gets plowed and disc'd.    On advice of local farmers, I've ordered orchard grass seed and on advice of the local land-grant college agriculture station, two types of organic alfalfa seed.  I'll be planting 10 acres of test plots, pure alfalfa, pure grass, grass/alfalfa and wheat/alfalfa mix.  I'll do a couple of acres of each and see how it does. 

My main crop area, about 60 acres,  won't be clear of corn until around September 25th, which is a couple of weeks lanter than I'd like.  I will probably plant a winter wheat cover crop and then see how the test plots go.  Next spring I'll make the final call on what I plant there.  I'm inclined to have a few acres of corn, a few acres of squash, and the bulk of the land in something that works well with ruminants.  I'm hoping that the alfalfa does well; I'm pretty sure that the orchard grass will. 

I'd like to have some sort of rotation of crops, but I don't have any idea of what that might look like.  My main concern is to get something growing out there in the corn stubble to prevent erosion but won't be too hard to rework if I decide that I want to do something else.

Cows, dairy and beef: 
  I have 7 cows that are ready for harvest as beef; I've sold two of them, my family will eat one, and we've got 4 more to sell.  The local cut-and-wrap folks are telling me that slaughter appointments need to be made now, as they're booked all the way into December.  Guess I should set a date. 

I have 4 dairy-breed cows; my Holstein cow, a jersey cow, a Holstein heifer and now a Guernsey cow.  The Holstein and jersey are both in milk now, the Guernsey is a heifer that's open.  I'm going to try my best to use sexed Guernsey semen for that cow, as she's purebred and registered; I'd like another Guernsey heifer out of her.  The jersey and Holstein are both producing lots of milk, but my own preference in taste is towards the jersey milk.  When we did the milk taste test Guernsey milk was our favorite, and based on that, and feedback from local farmers about what does well on grass, I'm going to either go with brown swiss or Guernsey as a base of a dairy herd.  

Tilling and and prepping the ground where next years garden will grow now;  I'll be planting a bit of garlic there, and will probably plant wheat as a cover crop, with the intention of tilling it under next spring when the garden goes in.  I'm trying my best to make sure that every bit of ground that I'm farming has something growing on it by first frost.  The race is on. 


George said...

What are your plans for the pure alfalfa fields? Hay? I'm sure you know that bloat/tetany on pure alfalfa is a concern especially in spring time.

We do a mix of Alfalfa and Orchard Grass here for our pastures, also use a mix of rye grass/blue grass/fescue/orchard grass for pasture too.

Also have had good results with grazing field corn before it is pollinated mixed w/ a legume such as cowpeas.

All in all it sounds like you're making great progress on the new farm, are you doing that all alone right now, I thought you had some hired help from time to time?

Rich said...

I'm not sure if you are going to be growing cash crops or are just interested in different crop rotations for grazing, but there is an interesting video and writeup about planting different crops to get year-round grazing for a dairy herd at:

It's similar but different to Gabe Brown's ideas about planting cover crop cocktails in combination with grazing and cash crops.