Archive | October 2008

New Calf at the Farm!

Remember when Miss Amelia had her calf, Possum, last January and we hung around for 35 hours waiting to see the birth and be there in case she needed … hmm… moral support? cheering?

Same thing happened this time. We had Delilah on baby-watch all week, visiting her in the pasture a few times each day to see how she was progressing. Finally Saturday morning Joseph said, “Nah, she’s not coming due any time soon. I say she’s still a week away.”
How do they do that? Sure enough, we showed up to water them a few hours later and Delilah was standing over a still wet baby boy.
  
Today we took our five cow herd up the road to the east pasture for winter. We gather together a group of friends, no matter if they’re cow-savvy or not. We post someone at each driveway and orchard along the way with the task to wave arms and shoo cows back onto the road if they shuffle off. But shuffling never happens. The cows get excited about the road trip the minute their hooves hit the pavement and it always turns into a herd of galloping bovines racing to crest the hill before we catch up. They always get there first. Luckily they remember where the gate is and by the time we arrive, panting heavily and doubled over from laughing, they’re already inside munching green grass.
This should be the last move until spring. They’ll get this last bit of rich green grass and then frost will hit and they go on hay for winter. Our herd will get smaller in a month as Maurice is nearly big enough to butcher. We may take Possum then, too. We’re still debating that. We’re thinking of finishing up with the beef cows and just having dairy cows which would be simpler. Hay has gotten so expensive that taking cows through winter is a real expenditure and sometimes it doesn’t pencil out to keep them going. 
We had a very good hay season this summer and managed to put away 180 bales but that’s not enough to take us through winter. Because of the huge spikes in oil, production costs went way up. Bales here are $7-8, up from $6 last year and $4 the year before. Our cows can run through quite a few bales in a week. if you’re buying beef, be aware of this. We feed our cows only grass and hay, nearly all of it from our land. That makes them what’s called “grass fed.” 
Commercial grain and corn growers put fertilizer on their fields and costs for that have skyrocketed, boosting prices for feedlot owners who raise grain fed cows. Since we don’t do that, that’s one cost we’ve avoided being caught by.
In case you didn’t know, grass fed beef is significantly more tasty and better for you and the cow than grain fed beef. Grass is what cows have always eaten. Their digestive systems are designed to process grass and hay, not grain. Commercial operations feed grain because you can put weight on a cow a lot faster and raise more in less space. Problem is that grain gives cows indigestion which makes them less healthy, needing more antibiotics and medicines, some of which stay in the meat. The indigestion they get causes flatulence ripe with methane. In plain language, their poop stinks.
Grass fed beef doesn’t have that. On our farm you can walk right up to a pile of manure and you’ll notice there’s hardly any smell to it. We spread the manure on our fields and it helps keep the pastures lush. Our grass fed cows don’t need medicine to keep them functional. They eat what nature intended and they do just fine. The compromise we make is that grass-fed beef doesn’t grow as quickly but they are significantly more healthy overall.
Next time you buy beef, try some that’s grass fed. Way more flavorful, less fatty and more tender. If you slow cook it like we do — put it in the crockpot on low in the morning with some veggies and dinner’s ready by evening — it cuts with a fork. Knowing what organic, grass fed beef tastes like, we can’t order beef in a restaurant anymore.
Our chickens are out in the garden cleaning up frost damaged, limp lettuce and mushy, green tomatoes and happy as can be. Nothing a chicken likes better than finally being allowed into the garden!
 
These cooler days mean we dress warmer and I get to wear my insulated farm boots which I love. Joseph bought some early last winter and liked them so much I got a pair for Christmas. Warm, dry feet on a cold, wet morning is a real joy.
A full moon came up over the field as Joseph and I closed the hens into the coop last night. Everything’s turning:  Bronzed yellow and scarlet orange leaves, newly sweet apples, fragrant purple grapes ready for pressing. We’re fully into cider-making season. If you come by, we’ll pour you a cup of sweet fall ambrosia.
This entry was posted on October 19, 2008, in Farm Animals.

Outhouses and Antique Apples

If you live anywhere near us in southwest Washington, come on over to our heirloom apple tasting event on Saturday, Oct. 18th. We’re going to have TWO HUNDRED different kinds of apples to taste.

Here’s a look at the event if you didn’t get a chance to see it when we did this with summer apples in August. (Our friend Lisa Fenderson made this video and she did a great job on it.)

Lisa’s video of Apple Day

Our farm is east of Battle Ground in the sleepy village of Venersborg in the Cascade foothills. We have three commercial buildings in our town: a tiny general store, the two room church and the one-room schoolhouse that’s on the national & Washington Historic Registers.  The 1912 schoolhouse is the oldest continuously operating community building in Washington. For the past two years I’ve been president of the local community club. Once I didn’t show up for a meeting and — surprise-surprise — I got a phone call telling me I was the new prez. That’s how it works here. 

The median age of our members is, I’d guess, about 78. I think there are three of us who are under 60. I may be exaggerating a little but not much. (In case any of our members are reading this, of course there’s not a one of them who looks her age. Country living can be either marvelously kind or sunburntly unforgiving and she’s been kind to our group.)

This little building is heated with a hundred year old giant woodstove and we use outhouses when nature calls. Which brings me to why I’m writing this.

These ladies are getting on in years and the outhouse is a problem for many of them. You’d know what I mean if you, as I have, handed an 83 year old lady a flashlight so she could take her walker and trundle up the path in the woods in the rain in February to use the loo. Quite a few of them say they can’t come to the meetings anymore because they can’t easily use the outhouse. Or, worse, they don’t drink anything for half the day before they come so they won’t have to use the outhouse which certainly isn’t healthy.

They’ve wanted a bathroom in the building since probably before I was born. I am determined this year to get a bathroom (small sink, low flow flush toilet, that’s it) put in.

Over the past ten years these ladies have raised a few hundred dollars each year raffling off handmade quilts and afghans, hosting baked goods auctions, running a tiny annual yard sale, ice cream socials and craft days. That money took care of upkeep on the little building and the rest went into savings.

They let boy scouts, the cemetery commission and local people have meetings and get-togethers here for no charge, although many folks do make a small donation. The money raised was enough to get the permits, perc pits dug and a simple septic system designed. At this rate they need to do this for another dozen years and I wonder how many of them will be around then.

Right now we have donations of materials and labor from local folks to build the bathroom. We need about $6000 more to pay the septic installer and a few other bills and we should be able to get the job finished. Up until now all our events have been local but with the apple event, we’re reaching outside of town for support.

On Saturday Oct. 18 from 11-4 our farm is co-hosting an heirloom apple tasting at the schoolhouse to raise funds toward the bathroom. We’ll have 200 different kinds of apples to taste, luscious pies to eat, unsprayed apples to buy. Choose which apples sing to your taste buds and we’ll make trees of those types to plant in your yard. The generous folks from the Home Orchard Society will be on hand to help identify apples and, hopefully, to find some rare ones among what gets brought in. Last year we learned one of our old farm trees was so rare it was thought to be extinct and now is rediscovered!

First I want to invite you to come out to the schoolhouse for our apple event. Bring friends. Eat pie. Munch on red-fleshed apples or purple skinned ones or apples that taste like pineapple. We’ll have kinds you can’t even imagine.

Below left, Kandil Sinap. Right, Duchess of Oldenburg (from the 1600s)

          

On left, the red-fleshed Russian Crab (a BIG apple). Right, the sweet Swedish Make.

          

While the ladies have volunteered to help out, I think the energy required may plumb tucker them out so I’m also putting out a call for some helpers.

Admission is $5, kids are $3 (under 6 free) and volunteers can eat as many apples as they like. I’m not going to let the ladies price the cookies this time though. At our tag sale in September they each baked a few dozen cookies and then priced them a quarter each because they were so concerned that someone might not be able to afford one. I would have charged a dollar for the whompin’ handful of still warm made-from-scratch brownie and given a free one to anyone who looked quarter-challenged and hungry. I keep reminding them that this is a fundraiser and it’s okay to charge a few dollars for a slice of homebaked apple pie like the one our neighbors Scott and Brenda (and son Kyle) are making here …

      

or the pies our sweet farmgirl helpers from Dee Creek made. 

If you want to help slice and handout apples you’re welcome to pitch in. You’ll learn all kinds of things about heirloom apples, or you can slice pie, pour cider, sell buckets of fresh apples or take tree orders. It all helps. If you want to volunteer, give us a call 360-687-8384.

If you’d like to munch 200 apples and contribute a few dollars to the town’s flush fund, we’re glad to have you! The schoolhouse is located at

24317 N.E. 209th St. in Battle Ground, WA, a pleasant country drive about a half hour north of Portland, OR.

Visit our farm’s website — read more stories and see pictures!

warmly,

Jacqueline & Joseph

Friendly Haven Rise Farm

“Where Spirit and Nature Meet”

This entry was posted on October 8, 2008, in Farm Life.