Thursday, December 23, 2010

we're moved in!

Yayyy...finally moved in and together as a family. And right before Christmas too. The place is a disaster because we moved in without the interior being finished. Cindy is busy now painting the closets so we can install some closet organizers and get stuff out of bags and off the floor. Everything works for the most part. We are still having some problems with the Rinnai hot water system. The vent/air intake pipe continues to freeze up at night and shuts down. It is a good thing that we are in a straw bale house. It is in the minus 20's lately and the house can go the entire day without the hot water heating the in-floor system and the house will only drop a few degrees without the wood stove going. With the wood stove, the house is just too hot. We bought a very small Vermont Castings stove and the salesman kept warning us that it would be too small for our 1300 square foot house...wrong! During the day though, the sun hits the black plastic vent pipe and melts the accumulated frost for the H2O heater...sometime during late afternoon I can turn the thermostat on and it will run long enough to heat the slab back up to room temp. I think the problem is that lately it has been unusually humid outside. It is minus 20 or worse and the humidity is still up around or over 80%! That is quite unusual for us...typically it is very dry during our winters.

It is good to know though that the Rinnai heater runs long enough to run a bath or use domestic hot water even when the vent is frosted. I haven't figured out a solution to the problem, but we'll investigate further once we get a little more settled. In the meantime it is completely livable.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

straw bale house update

Here is what has occurred over the past couple weeks. The interior stucco final coat was applied. It did not turn out as we had hoped to be honest. We had always wanted a smooth final coat. When the stuccoer showed up he did not know how to apply a smooth final coat! We had not done our research...oh well. The colour turned out nice, but there is a rough finish that we will have to live with or fix one way or another. Delaying the stucco application was simply not an option that we wanted to entertain.


The next step in interior finishing also did not go as expected...bad week for things to go wrong. We wanted a polished concrete floor with stain. When the concrete guy showed up he informed us that the slab was too uneven for him to grind and polish. At least he did not have a concrete grinder that was big enough to do the job. Instead we simply applied a concrete stain to the existing slab and we will take our time figuring out exactly what we want to achieve with our floors. Tile? Move out and allow a company to come in and grind later? Options to consider this winter. The pictures show the floors that haven't been mopped or cleaned in any way. You are seeing water stains and drywall dust. They look pretty good actually.

The girl wanted a red floor so red is what she got! I like it. Now she wants purple walls...ok.

For the past two days the cabinet installers were on-site. Now, finally something that looks exactly as we had hoped. Kitchen FX out of Edmonton did a wonderful job making and installing our cabinets. A couple doors were not quite ready and the raised panel for the island are still left to complete. The granite slab counter top will be ready sometime in the early new year.

Still to come this week is drywall taping and mudding along with the electrical final switching and plugging and the plumbing final connections. 

Monday, December 06, 2010

Kevin Kossowan's video compilation

Kevin Kossowan was asked to speak at the Slow Food AGM and made a wonderful decision to present a compilation video from all of the farmers that he has interviewed this year. I was told that it received a standing ovation and I am not surprised considering Kevin's talents as a documentarian (is that a word? it should be). The Video

Sunday, November 28, 2010

how to prepare grass-fed beef

It occurs to me that now that I have delivered most of our beef for 2010 that I did not include any instructions for preparing this beef. I guess I took it for granted that everybody knows how to cook beef. But our beef isn't just any old beef from the grocery store. It is gourmet beef.

To enjoy your grass-fed, heritage breed beef to its fullest you need to cook it low and slow. It is best enjoyed when it is cooked to medium rare at most. If you enjoy your steaks well-done, you will need to prepare it a little differently prior to grilling. Try marinating your steaks in milk or other favorite marinate. Of course if you enjoy your steak medium rare, as I do, just sprinkle a little salt and pepper and gently place it on your wood fired grill...mmmm. Propane will work too, but not as nice as wood!

The exception to this rule is for your roasts. Grass-fed beef loves slow cookers! Pick your favorite recipe and put your roast in the cooker and let the aroma waft through the house all day...you will love how this beef just falls apart and melts in your mouth.

Not sure how to tell if your beef is medium or well-done? Try this easy trick. Touch your thumb to each of your four remaining fingers and feel how hard the thumb muscle is. Compare the feel of your muscle to the feel of the meat cooking. Thumb to forefinger is rare. Thumb to pinky is well-done. This way you don't need to prick the meat and dry it out as it cooks...slick!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

beef update

Cindy picked up the boxes of frozen beef today from Cardiff Meats and Sausage. Tonight the two of us split up the beef into shares of 50lbs each. Each 50 lb share is filled with approximately the same cuts and amounts. I was trained as a retail meat cutter many years ago so I am familiar with the cuts and their corresponding culinary value. We made sure to include about the same cuts of stew, burger, round cuts and rib cuts in each share. Tomorrow we will be phoning those of you who have ordered beef to arrange the deliveries this week! Enjoy!

Monday, November 22, 2010

GMO problem...again

An article from a UK paper. GM gene loose in environment
Just another example of what happens when we allow our governing bodies to decide what is best for us. Those agencies are lobbied by ultra large corporations and decisions are made that are best for the corporation...not the people.

First there was round-up ready canola growing wild in Minnesota. Now we have pesticides leaching into the ecosystem...not from spraying though...from plant residue. "The insecticide is the product of a bacterial gene inserted into GM maize and other cereal crops to protect them against insects..."

It frustrates me to no end when I see research like this come to light. This is the tip of the sword when it comes to ecological damage that will occur when companies like Monsanto are allowed to control policies in our government. GMO will continue to grow in our food chain because company led research says it is ok. When will we have had enough of this intrusion? 

beef is ready

For our customers who bought a share of the steer for 2010 you will be happy to hear that the beef is ready! I will be picking up the beef sometime this week from Cardiff Meat and Sausage, possibly today, and then I will be contacting each of you to arrange to meet for delivery!

I am excited to taste this beef this year. We have been out of beef for some time now and my mouth is watering for the smell and taste of a roast in the slow cooker. There is nothing better than spending the day out working in the cold and coming in the house tired and chilled. To smell the wood stove and feel the warmth hitting me as I take off the insulated coveralls. Then there is the smell of the slow cooker. Comforting and familiar.

Of course for all of the above to happen I need to have a house! Still working on it. Almost finished with the ceiling. We installed pine tongue-and-groove ceiling throughout the house, and in the bathroom...cedar. It looks great. Tomorrow the propane will be installed to the house and perhaps the plumber will have the in-floor heating completed. Right now we have our little wood stove installed but without insulation in the attic and a gaping hole in the ceiling in the mechanical room, it just barely keeps up. We have already purchased the insulation and received a free blower rental from Home Depot with that purchase. Once the ceiling is complete, we can go ahead and blow in the insulation. Then the heat will be rockin in the house.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

steer processing

Well, we have slaughtered our one and only steer for 2010. Everything went smoothly and the sides of beef are now hanging in the cooler at Cardiff Meats and Sausage. The beef will be cut and wrapped sometime around the 18th of November. I didn't take any footage of the slaughter process. It is something that I may consider in the future, but for me the whole process has a lot to do with respect for the animal and is not something that makes me want to stop to take pictures.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

This is how we move cows around Gold Forest Farms. When I said "prodding" in the video I didn't mean electric prod! I meant that I sometimes have to go and give them a little push with my hands or shoo the more wild ones to just get them moving. Once they move, they almost always just follow along with me calling once in a while.

2010 steer

For our customers who have ordered beef...or a share of a cow, this is the 2010 steer. He has been a healthy and vigorous animal throughout his life. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

what am I building?

Here is the Answer!



first correct guess wins a prize...
It is 82.5" long and 27.5" across and about 24" high.

october 27 straw bale house update

Stucco complete...interior framing complete...tomorrow the plumbing starts, electrical continues and the steel roofing starts. Still about a month away from move-in date.


The final coat of stucco still needs to be applied to the interior. The exterior final coat will go on next spring.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

still harvesting and a house update

The grain harvest continues. We have been having good weather lately, but with such a heavy oat crop I have been slow to finish the field. I have about 2 hours left to combine and would have finished on Sunday if it hadn't of rained just a sprinkle...enough to stop me for the night. Yesterday, I spent the day helping with the stucco on the straw bale house. We are now finished with the scratch and brown coats of stucco on the interior of the house. The windows and doors and some interior framing will go on this week along with the stucco on the exterior. Lot's happening.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

from local farms

I would like to thank Kevin Kossowan for his feature on our little farm on his blog and his series called "From Local Farms". Kevin is an extremely interesting man and I believe deeply in what he is trying to do with his blog. Thanks again Kevin for allowing me to introduce myself via your series!

From Local Farms - Gold Forest

FROM LOCAL FARMS - Gold Forest Grains from Kevin Kossowan on Vimeo.

finally harvesting!

The weather over the past week was pretty good up until today. Last weekend it finally became dry enough for us to be able to do some combining. Starting to harvest on Sept. 26th is one of the latest starts we've ever had. Dad tells the story of not turning a wheel until the first of Oct. one year, but I must have been too young to remember. Here you can see us harvesting our certified organic yellow peas. These peas will be used for human consumption...pea soup! or for animal feed. I will have to spend a little effort trying to market them after harvest is over. These are the peas that Pea Butter is made from.

watering the cattle

For right now, this is how we have been watering our Galloway cattle. We go through about a tank every three days more or less depending on the weather. We have installed a frost-free hydrant, but until the pressure tank is hooked up and the plumbing completed we continue to haul water.

A quick straw-bale house update

We were planning on having a stucco party this coming weekend. People are just so darn busy these days and we were afraid that we were not going to have enough people so we have gone ahead and hired a professional stucco guy. This has greatly alleviated our stress about this particular process. It just never really seemed right to me to ask our friends and family to come help with the stucco. Everybody has their own lives to live and I couldn't help but feel intrusive.

Thanks to those who did offer to help though!! If anyone is still interested in coming for a visit to see how things are done, by all means drop me an e-mail and I can give you directions to the farm. I realize that there are some people who would like to see a straw-bale house being built. If we can accommodate those people without impacting our schedule or adding to our already insane pace then we will!

The stucco wire is currently being installed by our straw bale contractors. Hopefully we will be stuccoing this weekend!

Monday, September 13, 2010

rain and rainwater harvest

We have not had a sunny day yet this September. It has been just a little ridiculous actually. It will stop raining just long enough to get at least a little dry and then it showers again for a few hours. Day after day of gloomy, wet, damp misery. At least that is the way I am looking at things right now while the harvest waits to be started. I ended up buying another swather last week. It is an old Versatile 400 that is in nice shape. So, while we wait for things to dry up, the work on the house continues.

Late last week we installed our cistern behind the house. We purchased a large tank (4100 gallons) and we will use it for our domestic water needs. We will also use this tank as a catchment for rainwater from the steel roofs of the house, the garage and the shop. The rainwater will go through a filter and first-flush system before it enters the tank. From there the water will enter the house and go through our distiller for drinking and cooking. It will go through an ordinary filter element for the other household uses like laundry and bathing. From time to time we will likely need to fill the cistern with city water from the nearby filling station.

As you can see, the hole for the tank was huge! That is an 8' ladder leaning up against the wall of the trench. It was interesting to see the different layers of soil that extends that deep underground. That black patch to the left of the ladder is actually a very small deposit of coal. We also unearthed some big pieces of granite that are quite beautiful. We will use those for some landscaping accents here and there.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

ready to sell beef

For four years now we have been growing our little herd of Galloway cross cattle and experimenting with different pastures and processing, and even a couple different breeds of cattle. Overall, we have been very happy with the beef that we have produced. It was when we butchered our first Galloway though that we really knew we had something great to offer people. I have never been a big proponent of healthful, grass-fed beef to be honest with you. My experience of grass-fed beef came about in the 90's with the influx of New Zealand beef in the grocery stores....ughh, it was inedible. But, Cindy kept on and on about grass-fed beef and how healthy it was and we did a lot of research on different ways to make it taste nothing at all like NZ pasture raised beef. Thank goodness.

The beef we are producing now is so good that I find going to a restaurant to order a steak a complete waste of time. Juicy is the first word that comes to mind with our Galloway beef. Even well done, as my parents prefer their steaks, it is very succulent. There is a slightly different beef taste, but it is in the same way that our pastured pork is different...it is amazingly different! It tastes like beef!

So, now we have one steer ready to process this fall. One and only one. We will need some beef for our own freezer but I have decided to offer the other half to potential customers in the form of sampler sized Beef Boxes. These will be approximately 50lbs each and will be comprised of a variety of steaks, premium lean ground and roasts. Trust me, you will want the roasts! Amazing.

We will keep the cuts on the small size in order to give everyone as many different cuts as possible to try out. Next year, we will have at least two full steers to process and that beef will be available in bulk and cut to your exact specifications. Prices for next year will be determined later.

So, if you care to try some Galloway, grass-fed beef that has been grow using Organic standards please check out our Beef Sales page and give us a call. We can deliver in mid-november to a central location in Edmonton, Red Deer and Calgary. There will be very few of these boxes available for 2010. No need to send money now, just call to order and ask me any questions you like and bring a cheque with you on the delivery date that we set.

John

Thursday, August 26, 2010

more good news

For the first time in history wild plants with modified genes have been discovered in North America. This is exactly what opponents of gene modification have been warning about and it is only the beginning of our tribulations with gene modification.


what the?

This post is going to fall under the "if you aren't outraged, you aren't paying attention" addage. I am not sure how I stumbled across this company Cascadian Farms, but I did and it sure caught my eye. I was thinking what a tremendous job they had done on their site, what great marketing and professionalism. Then I looked at their vast array of prepared food products and the supposed location of the farm. I also noticed the subtle wording in the farm's description. The farm is situated on 28 acres yet they sell an amazing selection of products around the entire United States? Something wasn't adding up. I did a few searches and came across this...

Cascadian Farm, a Sedro-Woolley, WA-based unit of Small Planet Foods, in turn under the ownership of General Mills Inc., has launched Cascadian Farm Organic Chewy Granola Bars. The three-variety line features Fruit & Nut, a mix …


It just goes to show that consumers need to be aware of where they buy their products from and to what extend the huge Monsanto's of the world will go to trick you into buying their products. I cannot imagine that many busy moms are out shopping and have the time to look up who actually owns Cascadian Farms. So there you go. Now I guess this isn't horrible. The products are organic, but these huge companies that are now in the organic food market are the ones that lobby and pressure governments to reduce the requirements to become organic. General Mills, with their vast resources of money will be the first ones in line to have organic certification requirements relaxed so that their "farms" can become ever more profitable. 

All I ask is that people please support your local farmers wherever practical. Nothing good in this world comes from big-business...that's about all I know for sure. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

heritage barley trials

This year, with the move and everything, I was only able to plant two very small plots of heritage grains. They are both barley varieties. The top picture is the Tibetan Barley. It did remarkably well this year. The heads are full and it stood up well to some of the downpours and high winds we experienced. If this were in a large field, it would have yielded very well indeed.

The barley below is Purple Barley. I believe it is also of Tibetan decent. It did not perform nearly as well as the Tibetan. The heads are small, short. The kernels look nice and plump though and are indeed purple. It doesn't show up in the picture, but you can see the purple colour within the hull. As you can see it did lodge quite a bit in the summer storms. If this crop was in a larger field, it would not look very good at all and would be difficult to harvest. I am encouraged to keep up with the trials of the Tibetan variety. I will also propagate the purple stuff and see if I can't get a better variety over the years.

beautiful morning in the pasture

I missed the best light this morning, it was just beautiful though. Quite chilly at 8C, but the cows were lounging; quietly chewing cud and resting for a day of grazing. Skipper was giving me the stink eye in this picture. I am always a little cautious around him. These are his girls after all and I can imagine him getting aggressive when called upon. I always get after him when he postures to me, but I would always prefer to avoid a confrontation if given the choice. Skipper belongs to friends of ours, but he has spent a good portion of his life with our little herd. We take care of him and share him with another bigger cattle farmer in exchange for his services. Bulls are dangerous animals...we've been to rodeos and have seen what they are capable of. The white faced cow belongs to friends of ours and is on our farm with her 2009 calf. We have tons of pasture and hay so we offered to take care of them this year while they fix fencing. Our friends live in an acreage subdivision and only have the two cows.

This is "Henny". She is the first cow we ever owned. Henrietta is now almost 8 years old I believe, but she is in tremendous health and always delivers us a healthy calf. We have never attended any of her calving events. Henny is a Galloway/Highland cross. One of the calves in the picture is hers...I think it is the closest one. The back one belongs to my favorite cow "Missy". Henny's calves are always the psychos of the herd...constantly escaping whenever the chance presents itself and wild. Missy on the other hand, along with her calves, are very placid and tame...the labotomized cattle. They always come up for a back scratch and are very affectionate. Missy's 2009 calf is "Miley" and she will be bred by Skipper this year. This year both Henny and Missy had bull calves...lots of meat in the freezer next fall. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

trusses on...almost

We have one more day of work left to install the trusses. As you can see most of them are in place. Double hurricane straps will be installed on each end of all trusses and the end trusses need to be installed. Hopefully, the sheathing will commence tomorrow so we can stop worrying about rain! We have the bale walls tarped as well as we possibly can, but there is still an uneasy feeling whenever we hear the tapping of rain on our trailer roof.


Yesterday we had friends of ours drop off their two cows to be bred by the bull "Skipper". He arrived last week and immediately started to show off for the girls. A whole lot of bellering and pawing of dust...it was quite a show. Then the neighbors cows and bulls took notice and for two days and nights at least they were bawling and moaning to each other. Luckily, they are separated by almost half a mile. Otherwise there would have been wrecked fences and cowtastrophe.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

straw bale raising pictorial

Here some pictures from this past weekend. The bale walls look  fairly wonky prior to the top plate going on. Once the top plate is installed and the tensioning takes place the walls are rock solid and level and plumb. Today, the guys are busy tensioning the walls and preparing the walls to accept the trusses.
Below, you can see Lorie busy tying custom length bale for the spaces in the walls that require off-sized bales.
Cousins Mike and Brett busy at the "Bale Raising".


Pounding 3' bamboo stakes...2 per bale. Holy Fred Flinstone impersonation!
Below shows the walls at the beginning of the tensioning stage. At only 10% tension, the walls were noticeably solid and much straighter. Full tension will make them rock solid and then 2" of concrete inside and out will make the house like a bunker.
I have skipped a lot of detail. If you have any questions, please post a comment. Thank you for reading my blog. Cheers!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

straw bale raising pending!

Well, it looks as though everything will be in place for us to be able to have our "strawbale raising" party this weekend. Work is still underway with the base building assembly and the top building assembly and the window and door bucks. That should be completed by Friday. The actual bales are scheduled to go up on Saturday and Sunday. We seem to have a good amount of help at the ready so it will be a lot of fun to have friends and family actually helping with the construction of our new home. We will be sure to take plenty of pictures and maybe some video of the event. It will look like a different place by this time next week! Stay tuned.

Monday, August 09, 2010

summer hail = plow down

Almost all of our organic buckwheat was lost to hail in this one field. It is too bad, because I have a good market for buckwheat and this was worth some money. On the plus side though, this field will be much cleaner next year due to the summer fallow work that we are now forced to do. Here the little IH 766 is hooked up to the small JD disc and we are almost finished working under the buckwheat. The rye on the right looks untouched by hail. Buckwheat is apparently extremely susceptible to hail damage and is not insurable.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

summer 2010 crop tour - peas

These are Certified Organic Peas. These peas were sown into this field with the hopes of being a clean crop that we could harvest. Worst case scenario would have been that they came up dirty with weeds and we would have plowed them in as a legume plow-down. They came up beautifully though and it will be a bumper crop of peas for us. They will be used for human consumption in Split Pea Soup or Pea Butter or used for other organic farmers who need organic pea seed for next spring.

summer 2010 crop tour - oats

A nice crop of organic oats for 2010. Actually, these oats will be considered "transitional" oats as the land that they are grown on is not yet certified organic. They are being grown organically, but it takes three years to transition the land into Certified Organic status. A very nice crop for this year...these are "Rodney" Oats.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

construction update end of july

So here is where we were at with construction of our straw bale house at the end of July, 2010. As you can see the garage has been up for some time now. All of our household stuff is being stored in there and it fits! That means that we have downsized all of our crap that we feel we no longer require in our lives. Stuff that bogs us down and certainly has no place in our new house which will be half the size of our old place. I still cannot get over what a good feeling it is to simplify things even just a little.

As you can see the slab is prepped and the plumbing is in place for our hot water heating system and potable water. As I type this on August 3 the concrete has been poured and materials are on-site for the wall construction to commmence this week. I will post some pics of that process. This is where it finally gets a little interesting and begins to look like something a little out of the ordinary. 

At the start of the bale assembly construction, the measurements are taken on the slab and the wood bale bearing assemblies (BBA) are constructed. Next, the window and door bucks are built. Towards the end of the week, the bales will be delivered and the final plans will be made to build the walls by placing bales. This all has to be timed for good weather, the arrival of the trusses and the crew to roof the house. Once the bale walls are in place, they cannot get wet! 


time for a holiday

Back in the beginning of July we had a chance to get away for a few days. The Boy had a volleyball camp in Jasper, Alberta and so we stayed at a local campground while he spent his days playing volleyball in town. It was great fun to just hang out and do nothing much. We spent some time at the Miette Hot Springs, did some sight-seeing and some shopping and just tried to relax a bit. I thought you might enjoy some pictures of Alberta.


we're still farming too you know...

Even though all of our efforts seem to be focused on building the new farm we still have farming activities ongoing. The cows have all calved out now...for us that only means three of them. But still, it is the beginning of our little herd of Galloways. This year we lost the first calf...from our heifer. We simply lost him...looked for days. The other two, more experienced cows had no problems and delivered two healthy boys. These two along with our 1 year old steer mean that we have no short supply of beef in the coming years. Right now our freezer is empty and he is starting to look mighty tasty out in our pasture. The two little guys are very cute and now that they are around a week old you can see them playing with each other from the distance. Running and bucking and driving moms nuts with their head butts to the udder at feeding time. Calving season is a fun time of year for us. 

We are also still producing wheat berries and flour on a weekly basis. I love this picture. This is what I view on a regular basis as I get told what I am doing wrong. It looks like Mrs. S is giving me a piece of her mind...I forget what she was talking about, but she wasn't angry. You can see the mill in the background and our little milling room where we mill flour and weigh and package. It is actually a relaxing activity away from the tedium of building and planning. Here, Cindy is just applying the labels to the bags that I have filled and sealed. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

What the heck is going on?

Well...where do I start? Not posting in a month with as busy as we are leaves me wondering how to even begin. Firstly, the weather has be horrible. Rain. Rain. Rain. The hay isn't cut yet and we will surely do without a second cut now as it is so late in the season. The house construction has been progressing at a rate of zero because we didn't have blueprints until very recently but now we are finally underway. I received a call from the county that the permit was ready for pickup just now as I was typing! YAAAYYY! Actually, today is the first actual day of the house construction.

So far we have the yard and driveway built, the power lines installed and the garage built. The cows are out in their pasture that is as lush as I have ever seen a pasture around here. Grass over their heads in places! Today was the first time that the gravel truck could get into our property with additional gravel to get rid of the mud around the garage and yard.

We are living in our holiday trailer in the yard battling mud and rain. We are happy though. Actually, it is kind of novel to live in a trailer like that. When we want to go away for the weekend, we literally hook up our home to the truck and drive to a lake or the mountains or wherever. So far we have spent a week in Jasper when our son was in a volleyball camp and last weekend we spent at a nearby lake where we tested our our new-to-us boat...that was a blast.

I will have some additional pictures to show you all soon.

Monday, June 14, 2010

June 14

Gosh it has been eating at me that I haven't updated the blog for so long. I really enjoy my blogging, but you can probably understand the pressure that I have been going through lately with the spring farm work and moving the farm...along with the other normal family related requirments. I have some pictures and video of what has been going on for the past month or so. I'll try to post those in the next day or two.

First of all "the move"...we have been going gangbusters with trips out to the new farm for the past several weeks. When the grain truck is available between seeding gigs we load it up with furniture, boxes and other assorted junk that is too valuable to just toss. We also have another little utility trailer that Cindy can pull with her CRV. On top of that we loaded up our horse trailer and borrowed my SIL's big stock trailer. Trips are made to the property while Cindy sometimes stays behind to continue loading the next trailer or truck. It has been going well and we actually have 60-70% of our stuff moved. We have to be out of our house on the 25th of June.

Farm work...that has been going well also. No breakdowns so far. The peas were seeded first in late May. That took a day. Then we moved and seeded the oats...that took two days. Then we moved again and seeded the wheat in another day. Yesterday I started seeding the Buckwheat but ran out of fuel and had to quit around 7:30. This was after a very long day of moving furniture and moving equipment and a few minor repairs of the seed drill. I just didn't have the energy to go get more fuel. I will finish seeding the buckwheat tonight after work and after a stop at the fuel station.

That, in a nutshell, is my life lately.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Construction Update - April 26

Not a whole lot has changed lately. I met with the guy who is performing the dirt work this morning. His name is Ed Budzinsky and is actually a schoolmate of mine from Bon Accord. Good guy. We met today to finalize my wishes for the yard. There isn't much left to do...just touch up the driveway a little and expand the yard area where the house is to be located. We needed this area a little larger to accomodate the house and a circular driveway that will be on the east side of the house. This circle will allow guests an easy way to get in and out of our yard without having to backup...a skill that seems to elude a lot of people for some reason? Anyways, this will make it easy for grandma to come for a visit and it will also be easier for me to clear snow with the tractor. I can simply drive around in a circle instead of moving back and forth back and forth.

The gravel for the driveway has been ordered and tomorrow it will be delivered. The grader will still be on-site finishing the dirtwork along the ditches and putting a finishing touch on what is spread by the gravel truck.

Today I also approved the electrical line installation to the yard site. It only cost $270 and I get that back in the form of a government grant so that is a good deal. I will meet with the Fortis installation foreman sometime in the next few days and let him know where I want the lines and he will let me know if that works for him. Not quite sure what to expect for a timeline on installation.

Mrs. Schneider ordered the garage package today also. We ended up ordering the garage package from UFA instead of Totem...it was cheaper. We decided to go with regular form of construction for the garage as opposed to a strawbale building. It will go up faster and easier and then we will have a place to start storing household items from our current house.

The development permit and garage construction permit were approved last week so we are good to start building something. The plans for the house are still underway with the designer/architect/engineer...but they should be ready within the next two weeks.

Busy, busy, busy.

Auction notes

I enjoy going to farm auctions. There is a very real excitement, or for lack of a better term "high" that comes when you bid on something. Even if it is a $20 box of cultivator shovels my heart starts beating heavily in my chest as I bid. The adrenelin rushes a bit and I get a little shaky holding up my number on the bid card for the auctioneer to read once I win something. Of course, the amount of shakiness is directly proportional to how much money I have just spent.

When I attend auctions I tend to just hang back and see what's out there and if the item is something that I could use, I try to come up with a limit of what I would pay for it and still consider it a "deal" that I would brag about later at the coffee shop. That is sort of my gauge for purchasing items at auction. It's funny but you never hear about how someone over paid for something at auction do you? Most people must have the same sense of guidelines for auction bidding that I do.

Every now and then though I attend an auction for a specific item that I really want to acquire. Be it a nice, shedded tractor with low hours and a fresh engine or a combine with similar features. These are the auctions where a little strategy comes in to play and the nerves are weakened just a bit. Usually, in this case what I try to do is stay out of the bidding just to see who the players are. Hopefully, the item I want is late in the auction and I have had a chance to get to know the crowd...who has the money, who is buying what. I watch for who is going over the equipment I want as the auction proceeds. Usually, the people that want to bid on something go over it with a fine tooth comb. I try to get to know the equipment prior to the auction. Almost always, you can phone the farmer and make time to go look at the tractor ahead of time. Sometimes, I already know the farmer and how he takes care of his stuff.

Now when the tractor is finally up for bid, I let a few guys bid it up and I see who really wants it. I try to let them bid up a few times and wait to see who drops out. I already know how much I am willing to spend so I try to get into the bidding near my limit, but still low enough to bid a few times. When I bid, I bid very fast and with extreme confidence trying to send a message that this tractor is mine no matter how high you want to bid against me. Of course I am not always successful and maybe I am bidding against someone who wants the equipment as bad as I do and he has more money to spend, or set his limit higher, or has no idea what it is truly worth. I bid up to my limit and hope that I have bluffed him out of trying to bid against me any further. If he bids again, I shake my head and walk out...letting the auctioneer know I am "out".

It also pays to pay attention to what the auctioneer is saying at an auction. I almost always attend auctions alone so I don't get chatty cathy and I try to stay focused on the details of the item being bid. A perfect example of this was this weekend when a typical fuel tank and stand went up for bid. I needed a tank and stand and these looked no different than any other setup. I was willing to spend up to $230 for the bid. Then the auctioneer said something curious...that the tank was full of diesel fuel! The bidding started and a few guys started throwing bids. I quickly made a calculation that the fuel in the tank was worth around $900 and that the tank and stand itself would be around $250. The bidding was slowing down at $400 and so, with three successive quick nods of my head, I had won $1150 worth of stuff for $475! When I returned to the auction site later in the afternoon to fill up my tidy tank with cheap fuel, a fellow auction attendee drove past me with his winnings and commented that he didn't know it was full of fuel...should've been paying more attention shouldn't he?

I said earlier that people don't mention the stuff they overpaid for? Well at the same auction, I let emotions get a hold of me and I ended up paying too much for a really nice set of harrows. They are worth more than I paid, but I probably could've waited for another auction and got a similar piece of equipment for less. Oh well...the best laid plans.

Cheers!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

New Farm Construction - Day 3

Just getting finished up on the rough shaping of the driveway and yard. Next will come the grader, packer and then finally the gravel. It is starting to look like a farmyard already...well, not really I suppose. But, it is easy enough for me to envision how things will look when complete.


Rain in the forecast for the next 3 days. We need it so bad it isn't funny. There are over 60 wildfires burning in Alberta today...more than 4 times the normal for April. This is ridiculous. Whoever says that the climate isn't changing has their head in the sand. When I see the rains in the midwest and central prairies, the droughts along the foothills. The intensity of winter storms along the east. Seems pretty obvious to me that things are more volatile and changing fast.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New Farm Construction - Day 1

Here is a quick video on what our property looks like after Day 1. Here is the Cat D6 dozer building the driveway. He is stripping the topsoil out of the way, then he will wing the clay back up onto what will become the roadbed. After that, the topsoil will be replaced into the ditches and spread out evenly.
I will update on a regular basis the progress with construction. I am betting that this is going to be the boring part of construction for most of you. Everyone I know, is anxious to see the strawbale house be erected. It is very exciting for us though to see the differences in the property each and every day.

Ok...time to update

Sorry that it has been a while since I updated the blog. Here is what is happening. We have found our property and closed on the deal; we have started the process of getting the blueprints drawn; the permits have all been applied for; construction of the driveway and yard have started! This is all great news for us as we have been trying to sell our current location for almost 2 years.

Farming activities have also begun for 2010. It is another hot, dry spring and we are all quite afraid of the fact that another drought year is imminent. We have spent a few days now breaking or should I say re-breaking some hay land. Last year it was broke and seeded in wheat but the wheat did not germinate and the alfalfa simply overtook it. It is a little easier to break this year and hopefully we will get a good kill on the alfalfa so that whatever moisture remains available to the grain seed.

Other than that, we are busy with the multitude of planning activities that go along with constructing a new home and running a certified organic grain operation. Our flour mill is up and running too! I almost forgot to mention that. We are currently selling flour through Eat Local First in Edmonton and will begin to get our products into retail stores like Homegrown Foods in Stony Plain and others.

We have decided to forego with the decision to sell our products at farmers markets for this summer. It is just too busy of a year for us to add another project to our plates.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

still planning

We are very busy in the planning stages of our new farm. Currently we are looking for suitable land in the area that we have selected and for a suitable price! That is part of our frustration right now...prices. Here we are in the middle of year two of a pretty sizable economic downturn and people are still asking the same prices for land that they were two years ago during the boom. We found a beautiful quarter section in a prime location for a very reasonable price of $2,200 per acre. We made the mistake to think that we shouldn't act on the first piece of land that we come across and in our delay, another offer was made on the parcel. All the while we have been seeing prices that are at least $1000 more per acre than what this guy was asking. The first offer is conditional upon financing, so we are assuming that somebody wouldn't make an offer unless they were certain they could get the bank to agree. Our offer would be unconditional, but since it is a private deal with a farmer instead of a real estate agen, he wants to honour his verbal agreement with the first guy instead of taking our offer. Understandable.

I dont' want to mention the area we are looking at yet, but we have checked out the school and it is near family and still very close to Edmonton. We are still very excited to get to our new farm and start over!

We will keep looking but we are feeling anxious. Our consultant on the off-grid, strawbale house does not want to commence with design until we have secured the land. So, we need to get the land in order to start the process of drawings and other 'house' issues. We are not in a panick yet, just a little edgey.

As far as the house plans are concerned I think that we have settled on a design that we like. We are simply going to re-create our current house except only the main level. We currently live in a 1500 sq. ft. walkout that we designed and built 10 years ago; and over the years we have often discussed that the entire basement level is pretty much unneccessary. Our current basement is fully finished and we are down there often watching tv or whatever, but it is at the expense of upstairs being completely empty! So, we are going to stick with the devil we know and simply build a single level, strawbale version of our own home. I will take a picture of the plans and post them here sometime next week. You guys can give us your opinions on the plans at that time.

Monday, February 22, 2010

planning underway

Now that the farm has been sold we are very busy planning and discussing what we are going to build. There appears to be two different camps that have opposing views of what we are doing with our lives...one is saying "hey, that is wonderful go for it!". The other camp is saying "are freaking crazy?". Well, we are choosing to look at it from the first point of view...a chance to have a 'do-over' in life, to build whatever the heck kind of farm that we want from a blank canvass of land here in central Alberta.

The most important thing for us to consider is the house of course. We have had our hearts set on a straw bale house for almost half a decade now. We also want that house to be off-grid. Over the past week we have been focusing on those two aspects more than any other. How do we build our house if we have no place to live? What kind of infrastructure will exist in the house now that we are off-grid? No more electric stove/oven for instance. Another aspect of our house that is extremely important to Mrs. Schneider is the term "Healthy House". What this means is that no aspect of construction can create off-gassing...no foams, no particle board, no anything that will make our air sick. We are focusing on all-natural materials for our house or at least as natural as practical for our environment. We won't be able to construct a compacted dirt floor or go with a clay plaster for instance due to code and environmental conditions.

One of the problems we are facing now is how to heat and cook within our new home. We can easily go with propane stove/oven and a propane boiler for the in-floor heating but the fumes from combustion aren't exactly healthy are they? What about a wood cook stove? Actually, Cindy is surprisingly on-board with this solution but we are still a little aprehensive about going back in time that far! The propane fired boiler is alright because we can simply put it in the mechanical room which is sealed off from the living space of the house and it will be vented directly outdoors. But getting back to cooking with wood...we would sure like to hear more from folks who have done this or are currently doing it. What are the drawbacks...obviously it is more effort to start a fire and gather wood etc. but is there anyone out there who wishes they could get rid of their wood cookstove and replace it with something more modern? Here is a good post by Shirley on the subject.

To heat our home, as I mentioned earlier, we will stick with a propane boiler and in-floor heating. This will be only one of three methods used to heat our new home. The other two will be a passive solar design along with a small free-standing wood stove in the living room. Of course, we will forgo that stove if we already have a wood cookstove in the kitchen. The passive solar design along with the woodstove will mean that the in-floor heating doesn't work very hard, if at all. This will be a convenience for us in times when we are away from the house for the day or even on a tropical holiday.

Electrical systems will of course be solar powered and we will look into the practicality of a wind turbine. We will have to adapt our livestyle to follow along with the weather. On cloudy days with no wind, we will be somewhat relegated to what we can achieve electrically. On sunny, windy days we can do what we want. This seems to be the way of off-grid families. Actually it isn't much different than farming is it? You can't perform many farming operations when its raining and what you can achieve is almost always directly related to the weather. We will probably have a small diesel generator somewhere in the yard that can be fired up in times when we absolutely need the power and the weather isn't cooperating.

Well, that's about it for our house discussion today. The one thing I forgot to mention is that we are planning to build rather small and as efficient as possible. We are still struggling somewhat with actual construction design, but I suspect that we are going to focus on a load-bearing straw bale wall and simple hip roof design. I'll post our plans in a few days when we are a little more committed.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

farm is sold!

Last night we had a visit from our realtor and he had an offer for us to consider...actually it was 2 offers! After two years of listing our place for sale, umpteen different let downs from people that we thought were serious, countless interruptions from people wanting to walk through our house (usually at the last minute) our place is finally sold. It is actually sold too...unconditional offer...money we can live with...big deposit sitting with the lawyers and a possession date that is flexible up until June 25th.

Now the panic sets in. We need to secure some financing based on the offer we have to purchase land. Then we can start slowly moving equipment, tools, animals etc. At the same time, we also need to finance enough money to be able to get the drawings done, pay the moving company, secure a builder, order materials, etc. etc. There is so much to do, but we are excited because this is the start of our dream that we've been dreaming for about 5 years. A cute little strawbale home, off-grid(ish), no debt, grain land and closer to my family. Very exciting for us indeed.

Now I will ask for some help from everyone out there. I will be posting ideas that we have for this that and the other thing and we would sure appreciate hearing from anyone with suggestions for doing things based on experience. Heating with wood? Capturing rain water for household use? Off-grid living? We have been researching all of these things and many more for years...the one thing we haven't done enough of is hearing from other folks who have actually done all of this. What would they do differently all over again...things of that nature. Wish us luck and we'll have fun updating the process along the way.

Friday, February 05, 2010

2010 Kentucky Derby

Nothing to do with organic grain farming at all...just for fun.

One of the things that I really enjoy is following along with the 3 year olds who are in contention to run in the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown. My Aunt Nan got me into the world of horse racing as she owned a stable and bred thoroughbreds. I was lucky enough to live and work on her farm for a time. It is only Feb. 5th and already today I spent a little time nosing around at what is happening with this years crop of 3 year old colts and fillies who are eligible to participate in the Triple Crown.

Then I stumbled upon this guy! This is Uptowncharlybrown and he posts regularly on his very own BLOG.

Isn't he a cute little guy? Of course this is a picture of him from 2007 when he was a foal. So far he is undefeated in his first two starts and according to his BLOG, he has won his two races by a combined 15 lengths! Here is the video of his maiden race on Boxing Day 2009 pretty impressive.
Now, I am not saying that he is going to win the Triple Crown or even the Kentucky Derby. But I am saying that I am going to be keeping an eye on him. Does that win in Tampa Bay remind anyone of the race below? I'm not saying...I'm just saying.
Big Brown

new subscriber!

I see that our little blog has received another subscriber! He is Yvan Chartrand, the new owner of Treestone Bakery along with his partner Ritsuko!

Mrs. Schneider has already made a point of stopping by to introduce herself to Yvan, but I haven't had the chance yet. I will soon. I hope I am not putting Yvan on the spot, but I would invite him to post something about his beautiful little bakery and perhaps his extensive and extremely interesting background in the world of baking artisan breads.

If you live in the Edmonton Area, I would encourage you to stop by and give Treestone a try if you haven't already. They are located on 99th street, just north of Whyte Ave at 86th ave. The store is on the west side of 99th st. 

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

flour mill woes

We found out yesterday that in order to bring the mill into Canada from the U.S. it is going to cost us almost half the price of the mill just to get it here. I am constantly amazed at how nickel and dime processes add up so fast. The quote from the customs broker was over $500 and adding that to the shipping price, it equals a lot of money for something that in todays day and age should not be this difficult. So much for NAFTA and economy of travel and all those other things that modern civilization prides itself on. The other frustration is that there is apparently no Canadian manufacturer of small flour mills. Or at least not anyone who manufactures an affordable mill. The only place we found was in Saskatchewan. It was a stone mill that ground at 50lbs/hr and it cost over $16,000. The commercial mill we found out of the States was considerably less money for the same apparent quality and efficiency...without all the bells and whistles.

It just really bugs me to hand over money to people who apparently do very little. I am not privy to the processes that customs brokers go through, but I am willing to bet that they aren't extensive and yet here I am forced to hand over $500+ to them. It would be damn near the same cost for me to simply drive to Carolina to pick the thing up myself. If anyone has any suggestions for us on customs processes or another way to import a piece of equipment please let us know. I realize that $500 isn't a lot of money for some people...its just gets my Scottish blood boiling!

Monday, February 01, 2010

some news...

I am not sure how exciting this news will be for our readers, but it is definitely exciting for Cindy and I. We are pleased to announce that Gold Forest Farms has teamed up with my cousin Andrea and her husband Mike. Their farm, Hill Hidden Coulee also produces certified organic grains and we have decided to work together to produce, process and market locally grown grains. Between the two families, we will purchase the flour mill and begin production shortly. I've been saying that for awhile now, but we are in contact with the customs brokers and we will place the order for the mill within the next week. It should arrive within two weeks after the order is placed and then we can set it up and begin milling.

Mike and Andrea bring a lot of energy and experience with them. They have been farming organically for many years and have recently sold their organic cattle herd to be able to put the land into grain production. They are such wonderful people and we are so glad that they have accepted our offer of cooperation. I am certain that both families will benefit.

With Hill Hidden Coulee farm teaming up with Gold Forest Farms, Gold Forest Grains can now draw upon more than double the acreage for its raw grain production to be able to package and process grains reliably for our current and new customers. We have some exciting ideas for marketing that we will share when the time is right.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Podcasting

I have recently discovered podcasts! I know I know...what took me so long. I am a farmer and I don't like change. But, like I said, I have discovered this wonderful form of media and I am enthralled with it. It has reminded me of a time long ago when families huddled around a giant radio in the living room for their evening entertainment. No different than families of today huddle around a TV I suppose, but there is indeed something different.

I missed being born in a time when the radio was THE thing to do in the living room, but I somehow associate this activity with a time when families meant more to each other and it was easier to be entertained. Now that I have sattelite radio in the truck I often tune in to the Classic Radio Programs from the middle part of last century and I am somehow taken back to a time I had never been. Well, now here I am smack-dab into the 21st century and I have re-discovered radio. I am especially fond of The Kootenay Co-op Radio Station based out of Nelson, BC, Canada. It is the perfect organic, hippy type thing that I like to hear. The music is ecclectic and varied and the talk programs are very captivating. My favorite program of them all is Deconstructing Dinner. You can subscribe via iTunes or a direct feed...couldn't be easier. Or you can simply listen to the radio station live over the internet.

If you are reading my blog on a regular basis and you have iTunes and you enjoy podcasts, give the Kootenay Co-op Radio program Deconstructing Dinner a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed. I especially liked the episodes on Canada's first Grain CSA called "The Local Grain Revolution". Wonderful stuff!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

a January Sunday afternoon

There was finally something to do around the farm this past weekend. At least something that pertained to farming activities. I had the Hino sitting in the yard with some amount of screenings in it. Those screenings needed to be loaded into portable totes of around 30 bushels each in order to be stored for future sale to customers needing poultry feed. I needed the Hino empty so I could take fresh grain into the cleaners this week. So I plugged in the Hino and the 766 and got to work. It didn't take too long, but there was a tremendous accumulation of snow on the tarp that took a lot of work to dislodge...without poking holes in the tarp!


In the video, I say it is the 25th...it was indeed the 24th.

Turns out that I got a call on Monday from the seed cleaning plant in Stony Plain that they had a cancellation from another organic grower and wanted to know if I could put off delivery of my grain. That wasn't a problem so it turns out that I don't have to haul grain this week afterall.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Farming with horses continued

With some of the intriguing comments on the previous post I did a little digging. I came across numerous websites dealing with the subject of farming with horses. But this particular article on the website Rural Heritage really caught my eye. It deals with the pure economics of draft animals vs. modern internal combustion traction. Again, I am not smart enough to tell if it completely covers the entire discussion of true costs of draft animals and tractors but it seems fairly comprehensive.

The Article by Chet Kendell

Below is a video from JohnNorthcote. Percherons "Jake" and "Oliver" for the first time on the disc. Working nicely!


Andy Egger mowing a LOT of hay with his beautiful horses.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

When the oil runs out?

I'll tell you what...when I received the latest issue of Small Farm Canada magazine I found an article that really got me thinking. It was written by Rhona McAdam and the article is called Apres Oil . I had never really thought of "oil running out". I mean when I hear myself say those words it still seems kinda silly even considering how much the topic has been discussed in recent years. That couldn't really happen in our lifetime right? But the article didn't go on to discuss the world physically running out of oil...it discussed what would happen in the very realistic scenario that the price of diesel fuel increases by three fold in the matter of a few months. What would happen if during any given future summer, the cost of diesel went up so much that it was impossible to harvest the seeded and growing crops. Could that actually happen? Would the government step in to allow farmers the ability to purchase even more heavily subsidized fuel? What if the price of fuel never came down as it did in 2009? This scenario struck me as not only possible, but highly probable within a few short years. I am not an economist but I sure saw fuel prices spike in 2007/08 and I can see how it may happen again sometime soon.

Our farm is small and we are continuing to set ourselves up to be able to sell our produce at closer to retail prices. It is a lot of work to process and market the produce to be able to achieve this pricing, but we are doing it. That means that our farm can stay relatively small and still achieve a liveable income. Because our farm is small, could we actually go back to farming with horses or oxen? Is it practical?

Well I would have to say yes when I see so many other folks doing it! Neil Dimmock here in Alberta is a prime example of someone who is more than capable of surviving without oil.

I would be well advised to try to stay in touch with Neil and learn all I can about farming with horses. Cindy and I are no stranger to horses having been around them and involved in raising them for many years in the past. I don't think that either one of us is necessarily looking forward to owning horses again, but if there was an actual purpose behind owning them as opposed to them just being really expensive grass mowers, I could see it happening sometime in the near future. Of course, first things first. We have to get ourselves moved and our new farm built and operating. I hope that can happen before the oil runs out!?!?

Above is KYGuyz using a hay gathering implement to load the wagon. Below, Neil Dimmock seeds his fields with the Percherons.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Feeding cows....during the winter months on our farm things are a little relaxed. Perhaps too relaxed. I feel lazy in the winter and I don't really like it. We still don't have a heated shop, so I cannot really spend much time outside dealing with machinery maintenance or repairs. That sort of stuff has to wait till March at the earliest.
So, now all we have to do is make sure that the stupid cattle waterer stays ice free and the cows and chickens are fed. I would comment more on our cattle waterer but I fear unwanted attention from the manufacturer should they see what I have to say about it. Suffice to say that at one point in time, I called in complete frustration to complain about the ongoing problems with a frost-free livestock waterer that was anything but frost-free and I was told something rude and hung up on. I certainly won't be buying another Nelson Waterer anytime soon. I've said too much now so I may as well just keep going...just make sure that if you are in the market for a freeze-proof waterer that you do your own extensive homework. A badly designed waterer will cost you a significant amount of money and much headache. Our waterer was designed with the heating element above the valve, immediately below the bowl...heat rises so needless to say the valve freezes. The bowl of water stays nice and liquid right up until the cows drink it...then, because the valve is frozen the bowl stays empty. Another problem we had was that the bowl of water easily splashes over when thirsty cows or horses are jostling around...the water then dripples or slops down the outside of the bowl and lands on the heating element assembly...blown heating element in about a month and a half even with the water level significantly reduced in the bowl. The waterer was installed as per the instructions. We haven't had any problems with lines to the waterer freezing or anything else...just the waterer itself. We should have simply purchased a livestock waterer from the local UFA store. They have been selling the same brand for decades...parts are easily available locally and they appear to be ok in our area because everyone has one...except us.

Now I have the waterer rigged up to work as long as the light bulb inside stays on. I installed a socket below the valve level. It works well now except when the bulb burns out from time to time as light bulbs do, but we'll limp along until we move when I can buy a proper livestock waterer.

Feeding the cows is pretty easy. As I mentioned before we are moving the feeder each time we bring a new bale. The field is getting manured up nicely and I am already cherishing the fact that I don't have to haul and spread manure this spring.

Small Farm Profitability – Part 2



I have started small, marketed what I had (once I figured out what worked for us and our customers) and grew from there. I am still a long ways off from where I want to be, but I see our plan developing before our eyes. Only a few short years ago, Cindy and I would sit across from each other over coffee and talk about decisions that impacted hundreds or thousands of dollars; now we are talking about decisions that reflect 10’s of thousands of dollars. It is still growing and I can see a day soon where it will be a family business that can employ our kids and their families should they decide to go that route. Start small, stay as small as practical and grow when you have to…that would be my advice to anyone starting out in farming. The other key in my mind is to produce a product that fills a niche market. Something that people are willing to pay a premium for. Be it Organic or Local or Boutique…fill a need…do something that you love to do…charge a good amount for the product.

What to charge is always something we struggle with. We are often torn between wanting to provide people with "deals", but in the end it costs us a great deal of time, money and energy to produce that beef and market it. We tend to look at it from a standpoint that we have a good product that is better than what can be found in a supermarket and it is still a litte less expensive. I suppose that is as good of a "deal" as anyone can expect. I think that farmers are always prone to undervalue what they produce...why is that?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Small Farm Profitability – Part 1

You may have guessed that part of my plan for small farm profitability is to be cheap! I think that the biggest single problem that beginning farmers face is the pressure to take out a loan, run to the nearest Kubota dealership and plop down 20-40 thousand dollars for a tractor that should have only cost them $3000. Of course, I don't begrudge the fellow that buys a new tractor...hell, I would love a brand new tractor with the plastic covering still on the seat! It's just that I have bought countless numbers of implements and other farm equipment from auctions and select private sales. Tractors from the 40's, 50's, 60's and 70’s in good mechanical condition are cheap, reliable and have all of the benefits of modern tractors. Small tractors haven’t changed much at all in 80+ years! Think of it this way. What would that same $20,000 buy me? A tractor, a few different cultivators, a seed drill, a small swather, a potato planter and digger, a small combine, an auger…perhaps even a small grain truck or gravity wagon. I am good to go start making money and the guy with the Kubota is still just riding around on his tractor. Starting small means being frugal and putting up with other farming neighbors looking down their noses at you as you bark and surge along the gravel road in your 1967 International 503 combine! Air conditioning is for wimps!

My list of the best, most reliable, easy to fix tractors in order of my preference for a small livestock or market garden farm:
   1) Any 1970's IH tractor under 100 hp with 3pt hitch- ie 766, 666, 566. Should be around $5,000-$10,000 Parts still available at any Case/IH dealer. Engines are practically bullet-proof. Most have cabs here in Canada. Any number of loaders fit them for an extra $2000 and most should already have them mounted. John Deere's are good, but they are incredibly over-priced for what you get.
   2) 1960's Allis Chalmers D series tractors - D14, D15, D16, etc. As above on parts, price and reliability (except you need to go to an AGCO dealer). Most already have loaders attached. Ingenious 3pt hitch system called "snap-coupler". If you find the implements to go with the tractor buy them!
   3) Probably the most under-rated tractor in history was the Ford tractors from the 50's. Late model 8n's, 1950's 600 series, 800's and later 900's were tremendous tractors. Parts are still available, but you shouldn't need any. Tough little tractors with ahead-of-their-time hydraulic systems. Because of the way they were engineered you can get a much older tractor and pay less for it but have the same features of other manufacturers' later models. The only reason I place them 3rd is that the later models with indpendent pto's can be difficult to find...they were under-rated as I said earlier and sales started dropping way before they should have. By the 70's Ford tractors were not well-built and I don't consider them an option.


Above is a random video from uTube on the subject of Ford Tractors. Please check out all of "stembre's" other uTube videos to see what an 8n Ford can do! Please keep in mind that I do not consider myself an expert on tractors but these are my opinions on the subject. Take it for what it is...an opinion. Happy Farming!