Friday, October 24, 2014

Finally--A Farm Shop!

It doesn't look like much from the picture. But we are oh-so-proud. (Search "barn renovation" in the search bar on the left side of the blog home page for the whole process.)

Our little shop offers a place to buy our farm-fresh dry beans, wool roving and yarn, and handcrafted items made by our family: mittens, scarves, rugs, socks, quilts and more.

At this point, we are only open Fridays from 1 - 4 pm, or by appointment. Today is our soft opening, and perhaps we'll have something more organized soon.

We are located at 13275 Blair Street in Holland, MI. The shop is in the red/white barn to the northeast of the house. It's a lovely day--feel free to drive out!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Harvesting Dry Beans -- Part II

After hand-pulling the beans, we use the newly-repaired combine to remove the beans from the plants. This is what the beans look like after some time on the wagons, drying. The time on the wagon ranges from a few minutes to a few days, depending on how dry they are as we pull them.

After the combine was repaired, the guys fashioned a wooden box that they mounted on the front of the combine. Typically, when the combine is driven through the field, it has a "head" that helps to pull the plants in. We took the head off, and parked the combine. It's a lot more work to hand-pull and hand-feed the plants into the combine. But this has not been a great year for the beans, and we want to take extra care to get every bean we can.

The combine separates the beans (seen falling into a tote inside the combine hopper below)...

...from the rest of the plant. The waste comes out of the back of the combine. This will be used for sheep bedding and/or composting.

So far, we've picked 11 of our 14 varieties. Some have yielded better than others. More to come later on how we clean them.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Out With the Old and In With the New Part Two

After some modifications to the new engine, it was time to put it in place. Good thing we have this trusty skid steer. The engine weighs about 1,100 pounds.

Heavy duty log chains come in handy, too. This process took quite a while, as the engine had to be level. Quite a few adjustments were made before the final lift began.  

This was a slow and careful project. The heavy engine had to be guided into place.

Once it was in place, the engine had to be bolted in place. Lots of jostling when you're driving through the fields combining. The engine has to stay put. After the engine was bolted in place all the guards and covers had to be replaced.

Once everything was in place, they fired it up, and it started on the first try. Music to our ears!

And finally, the old engine was shipped to where we bought the new engine. It will be used for parts, or rebuilt.

No loading dock on the farm, but we can manage.

I'm happy to report that the combine is working well! Great job, guys!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Stuck in the Fence

Disclaimer: The sheep in this story has had no long-lasting ill effects. She may have a new appreciation for fences, though. Also, no pictures were taken, due to our intense focus on resolving the situation.

A couple of weeks ago we were having issues with our electric fencer. The fencer is a device that sends jolts of electricity through the fence at regular intervals. It is to keep the animals you want to have inside the fence INSIDE, and also to keep the animals you don't want inside the fence OUTSIDE. If you've ever had a tussle with an electric fence, it's a memory that doesn't fade. (Go ahead and share your story in the comment section. It's funny to read other people's stories.)

Anyway, for a few days, the fencer would randomly not work. We replaced ground connections buried under ground. We endlessly traipsed around the fence to see if there was a tree or something else causing the fence to short out. Finally we decided that the fencer needed repair, and made arrangements. (There was that really close lightning strike that blew our neighbor's transformer, now that I think about it.)

During one of the random downtimes, we had sheep out. Free range sheep is not really part of our business model, so it was "all hands on deck" to get them put back in the fence. When we were herding them towards their destination, we saw that there was a sheep tangled in the net fence. We "staged" the flock, holding them still, while The Farmer investigated. She was so tangled that it took him a good 5-10 minutes to get her free.

The lack of electricity at that time had tempted her to tangle with the fence. And her instinct was to struggle once she got caught, which made things worse. Her sheep friends couldn't help her at all, and she couldn't help herself, either. She needed to have The Farmer come and patiently untangle her.

The Bible is full of stories about sheep. People are compared to sheep more than anything else, and it's not always a positive comparison. And while there are many lessons swirling in my mind about the above situation, the main one is this. We, like sheep, have tangled with stuff that we should have left alone. Stuff that isn't good for us. And struggling to get out of the situation often worsens it. Our friends can't help us (and in fact sometimes just jump over us to get to greener grass). The only one who can help us is our Shepherd, who gently untangles us, binds up our wounds, and restores us to our place in the flock. If you are in a situation that has you tangled, won't you ask the Shepherd to help you out? Revelation 3:20 says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him." God wants to have a relationship with us. And that starts with us asking for help, and opening the door to him.

Now for the electric fence stories. I'll go first.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Out With the Old and In With the New

Some of The Farmer's "spare time" (cue laughter track here) was spent working on the combine this summer. During rye harvest, the engine blew. It was a terminal diagnosis.

So we looked around, finally found, and ordered a new engine. Let's see if you can tell which is the old and which is the new. 

Any guesses?

Does it help to see them together?

The new engine was actually a tractor engine, just like what came out of the combine. Almost. Kinda. Mostly the same. Close, y'know? There were some modifications needed, of course. Because nothing is ever truly easy. Even when you spend a bunch of money on a new engine.

The Farmer has mad wood skills. He is not a natural mechanic (though his brother is!). But after years of working along side my father on all kinds of farm equipment, he has acquired a working knowledge of how to fix things. And out of necessity he has tackled some pretty big jobs. We are grateful for a diesel mechanic friend who can give a little advice here and there. We are grateful for the small tool and die shop that is up for almost any "can you make one like this?" job we throw at them. And we are grateful for the local sheet metal place that can make something that is mostly rust like new again. But I am mostly grateful for The Farmer who doesn't back down from a hard job just because he's never done it before. 

More on the engine soon...

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