Wednesday, August 17, 2016

To Market We Go

The bean harvest of 2014 was not great. So last summer we rotated between three farmers markets, and didn't have too much trouble moving the small quantity of beans we needed to market.

The bean harvest of last fall, however, was much better. We continued to rotate between three markets all winter long (some of them outside!). But early this summer, we realized that we needed to work a little harder to move all these beans. We added two new markets to the mix, and now we need a Franklin Planner (an old-fashioned kind of scheduling app that uses paper and a pen) to keep us knowing where we are coming or going.

With the great help of our parents, we cover five markets. The Holland market is an every Saturday market. The Fulton Street market (GR) is an every other Saturday market, as is Sweetwater Local Foods market in Norton Shores. New to the mix this year are Kalamazoo (every other Saturday) and South Haven (as often as we can get there--generally every other Saturday and most Wednesdays).

To help our customers know where we will be any given Saturday, we've joined a program called FarmFan. Customers can sign up to get a text message each week, telling them which markets we will be attending. If you're interested, you can sign up here.

In addition to our certified organic dry beans, we sell wool roving and yarn, as well as other wool products from our farm. Stop by one of our stalls on Saturday and say hi!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Cattle Drive (A Smallish Version)

Yesterday we moved the cattle from one pasture to another--a total move that had to be close to half a mile.

It was a hot day, one of many hot days this summer all strung together in a row. If you've ever picked a field of green beans, or hoed a field of pickles, or followed a potato digger, lobbing the freshly-unearthed taters into a nearby receptacle, you'll know what this summer feels like.

You look up from what you're doing and think, "Didn't I make any progress at all? The end is still so far off..." And then you realize that once you reach the end of your row, you will turn around and start back across the field to where you started.

That's what this summer feels like. Are we there yet? We watch the weather, hoping for a break in the heat, or the relief and refreshment brought by rain. People comment to us: "This is what we wished for in February!" And they drive off to their cottage or the beach, while we move our animals and pray for a break in the heat.

Every single day, the sheep and cattle are moved to fresh pasture. Several times a day, fresh water is brought out to them. For much of the summer, both groups have been beyond the length of our hoses. So we load up water tanks and make the trek out to fill up water tubs. Rinse and repeat. First thing in the morning and last thing at night--the animals must have water.

Yesterday it was time to move the cattle to a new corner of the farm. The Farmer spent a good part of the morning setting up fences to guide them. We don't need them in the neighbor's garden. We can't have them stomping holes in someone's lawn. And we don't want them to get a wild idea about heading for far-off places. With some well-positioned fences and several people and a little prayer, we hoped to move them where we wanted them next.

They were slow to start moving. It was hot, and I can't blame them. Once they did start, they traveled a long grassy strip between a fence and a deep ditch filled with cattails that are taller than I am. We hoped that the cattails and the ditch would prevent escape attempts, and except for one short foray into the muddy bottom by a youngster, we were right.

The cattle then were herded onto the gravel road for the last half of the journey. No, we don't want our road paved. It gets enough traffic as it is, and if it were paved, the traffic levels and speed would increase. That makes cattle and sheep drives a bit harder. No cars while we're moving animals suits us just fine.

Once the cattle were on the road, they picked up the pace. We trotted along behind, as well as the heat and our conditioning (or lack of conditioning) allowed. Only a rope fence, held by two people, prevented them from continuing down the road to who-knows-where? That, and the nice green grass that beckoned them. Success! Another 20 minutes of picking up fences, running electricity out to the new pasture, and bringing fresh water, and we could retreat to the shade or the air conditioning.

We could use some rain. If you are the praying type, would you join us in praying for rain?

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Sunday Post

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
     and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
     the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
     the Spirit of counsel and might,
     the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 
And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

--Isaiah 11:1-3

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

From Manure to Compost

Now that most of the sheep are out on pasture, The Farmer has begun cleaning out the barn. The bedding is packed down very solidly, and so the first step is to scoop it out of the barn and bring it outside to place it in the manure spreader. 

Once the spreader is full, he turns it on, and the spreader spews it everywhere, breaking it up into smaller pieces. Stand back!

He loads it into the mixer wagon, which beats it up some more.

He opens the side gate on the mixer wagon, and the compost travels up the conveyer into the invessel composter. The composter slowly turns and aerates the manure and straw, allowing it to heat up and do its thing. The constant turning of the drum makes for a high-quality, consistent product.

After 3 or 4 days in the composter, The Farmer takes the compost out of the drum and piles it up outside. It then ages for about a year before we sell it.

All compost is not created equally. Our compost is made from sheep manure and straw bedding. We do not add leaf and yard waste, with the chance for chemical weed and feed residues. Those chemicals come through the composting process and get put on your garden beds along with the compost. Probably not what you want in your garden. Next time you buy compost, ask what is IN the compost. Ask where they get the inputs that go into making their compost.

We have compost for sale by the pickup truck/trailer load or smaller amounts in 5 gallon buckets. Please email us at for more information.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Is It Time?

Spring is here, finally. For a few days we skipped over spring and headed straight for summer. But now we are safely back in spring. The barn is overfull of sheep. The cows are nibbling the sacrifice pasture they've wintered in to death. (A sacrifice pasture is one that will be tilled up and planted to something else, so you don't really care that it gets overgrazed and ruined.)

Speaking of ruined, we like to give the pastures a head-start on the animals. Spring growth is phenomenal, but the pastures have to be to a certain stage before you turn the animals loose on them, or they will be stunted for the season. 

This pasture is not ready yet. 

This pasture is getting close.

We will let the sheep out this Friday, April 29, at 4:30 pm. If you'd like to stop out and watch this annual rite of spring, feel free to come. We are at 13275 Blair Street in Holland, Michigan.

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