Jul 182012
Noodle bean blossom

Some good friends took Josh around to see the sights, including Lake Michigan, while he was in Milwaukee.

Farmer Josh is back on the farm! And it is so nice to have him back.

After spending three months in the city I think he’s glad to be back as well. Josh’s time was well spent at Growing Power in Milwaukee. He was able to connect with some folks who were willing to share their knowledge in areas such as vermiposting and aquaponics, areas he has had a desire to learn more about. Many friendships were made and valuable lessons learned.

Josh had been expecting me to arrive on the evening of July 8 ready to load his belongings in the car and head back home early the next morning. Unknown to him though, we were making plans to surprise him and arrive early with not only me, but with Steve and Jena as well. Steve had called Growing Power to find out what we needed to do to be able to work as volunteers for a couple of days. A required volunteer orientation session is offered every Saturday at 10 a.m. so we made plans to be on hand for the orientation offered on Saturday, July 7, the day before Josh was expecting me to pick him up.

Camping at Lake Lenwood

Steve, Jena and I traveled the 12 hours to Milwaukee on Friday and set up camp at a campsite we had reserved near a pretty little lake north of Milwaukee. The next morning we headed into Milwaukee to find Growing Power and hopefully surprise Josh.

When we arrived we had to walk across the front of the Growing Power property all the time wondering what we would do it Josh saw us before we saw him. We made it to the GP store and introduced ourselves to the lady behind the counter. Clara, as we soon learned, had spent time talking to Josh and, it seemed had “adopted” him.  After sharing hugs and her appreciation of Josh, this dear lady took us out onto the property to find Josh. Some of the other staff indicated that he was in the chicken house so we headed that way. As we neared the chicken house Clara called to Josh and he came bounding out of the house and soon had the most classic look of disbelief on his face I’ve seen. It appeared we had genuinely surprised him! Hugs and laughter then followed – it was so much fun! Continue reading »

Jan 282010

Ok, so maybe this should be titled "Happy Belated New Year!"

We’ve had the warmest of days (high of about 58 degrees) and the coldest of nights (low of at least -8 degrees), one of the most celebrated times of year (Christmas) and the most challenging times (one of which was the hay pile’s plastic cover trying to blow off Christmas day! ) There’s been the brownest of times and the whitest of times (when snow came Christmas eve night) the calmest of times (no breeze to be had) and the blusteriest of times (Christmas eve had 40+ mph gusts) This family has had a little down time (getting to spend a little time together over the holiday season) and busiest times… and all this happened since the last update!!!

By the way, Hi!

Just in case you couldn’t tell it’s been a little interesting around the farm!

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We’ve had several very cute lambs born since the last update! In the photo above, a lamb can be seen snitching a snack from the black headed mamma ewe.

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The day before Christmas Eve it rained off and on all day making everything damp and there were even a couple thunder storms that rolled through! With about 1/2" of rain all our outside work was damp, but relatively warm with the temperatures in the mid 50’s. Trying to batten down the hatches before the predicted really nasty weather came in, Dad and I fastened down the plastic sides on the chicken palace. We also moved Spanky (our boar pig) to another pigorator bin and rigged up a roof and wind break out of tin to help keep him warm.

Our family planned to celebrate Christmas a little early this year because of other plans (they fell through) for Christmas eve and Christmas day. So, the evening before Christmas eve day (Wednesday) the six of us got together for our Christmas celebration. We gathered together before eating and as a family went around the circle praying and thanking the Lord for His goodness to us.

G-Jean and Jena had gone to great lengths and put on a feast for our Christmas buffet line! After going through the buffet and eating, G-Jean, Granddad and Jena couldn’t wait any longer to open presents so we went to the living room before having desert! We were a little too full for desert anyway…

Jena making shish kabobs for our special Christmas supper!

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The two grand cooks of this feast!

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One of the biggest highlights was when Jena and I opened up our packages and each found a homemade quilt from G-Jean! Jena’s was a double wedding ring quilt with horses and mine was a "North Woods" pattern. My, they are both beautiful and we will treasure them for many years to come! The funny part was G-Jean had to keep from spilling the beans that she was making a quilt for both of us. Jena and I were trying to keep an eye out for one another and make sure the other one didn’t slip in on G-Jean while she was working on the other one’s quilt!

This picture doesn’t show them very well, but there is a different kind of wildlife in each of the north woods blocks such as wolf, hummingbird, loon etc.

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Christmas Eve day was a whole new ball game. The wind kept picking up until we had nearly 40+ mph winds blowing across the prairie and there was a cold rain too. Dad and I made a quick town run before too much started freezing down. By one o’clock the rain had started changing to something like small sleet. By evening the sleet was blowing so hard with the wind it felt like shotgun shot hitting us as we did chores.

Christmas Morning our world had changed! The sleet had finally given way to snow a little after dark and by morning there was a thin layer of snow covering nearly everything. Ok, so some areas were covered by a lot more snow than others as the wind was still blowing and made some pretty good drifts! As time went on the wind changed directions a little and you could watch the drifts move as the wind blew them into new places!

Action! Get them doggies movin’…they’re wound for sound! Caye especially loves the snow and you can usually find her with a frosting of it over her face if she’s been out playing. Tag on the other hand thought his winter coat was a little to short for comfortable playing weather.

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Doing chores Christmas day I discovered the high winds had nearly blown the plastic off our outdoor hay pile by tearing the plastic where we’d hung weights on it. With Kubota’s lifting muscles, Dad, Granddad and I got old tires and some old square bales of hay on top of the plastic to help weight it down. It took quite a bit of time, but we finally got it settled down from its vicious flapping.

I’m getting hay from the pile here to feed the livestock, but you can see the tires and hay bales we stacked on top.

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December 28th, which was the following Monday our wind finally calmed and the temperatures soared back up to 40 degrees! Unfortunately I had to be inside quite a bit of the day to place orders for several garden supplies needed for this coming season. Berry boxes, produce sacks, irrigation fittings and other supplies have already arrived.

The next day our wind stayed calm, but the temperatures weren’t quite as warm. Dad and I had to make another town run and then split some wood to have on hand through the next predicted cold spell moving in. We also loaded feed barrels so Granddad could pick up feed for us the following day.

Jena decided to try on Dad’s homemade skies again. Dad had made the skies this past spring when there was a late snow. While there might need to be a few upgrades in design she still seemed to have fun and I’m constantly amazed how you can float across the top of a two foot drift without falling through…if you do it right that is.

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Flyin’ down the runway!

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Somewhere around the first of the year G-Jean and I planted onion and leek seed inside in flats. They are now up and growing well so we hope to have a good onion crop this coming year! That was pretty late for planting the onions since generally October or so is better, but we didn’t get our seed ordered soon enough for that.

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The 31st of December Papaw and Mammaw came for their Christmas visit from Kentucky. Unfortunately we didn’t exactly give them a "warm reception" weather-wise! It was good to visit with them a little inside while the snow was on and the temperatures were not exactly warm. Papaw and Mammaw both braved the cold, snow and wind with us while we were doing chores.

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On the second of January we looked at Granddad’s temperature chart and the high was only 16. I decided that would be a very good day to work inside so started putting together a PowerPoint slide presentation for a presentation I’ll be doing at the Independence Library February 4th. The goal is to share some of my experiences in gardening and pass along some of the ideas and tips I’ve picked up along the way. I hope to encourage more people to grow their own gardens, even if they start out small, so more people have the knowledge of what it takes to raise food. We need more people to raise good, healthy, locally grown food!

G-Jean wanted Dad and I to help put up her Christmas decorations so we got all the boxes out of the attic and then put them back up once she got all the Christmas decorations taken down and packed in the boxes. Dad also cut a load of wood while I made a few phone calls. That night we noticed a funny thing happen. At bedtime we saw the temperature was already down to zero and we expected it to really be cold by the following morning! However, when we got up the temperature had risen all night until it had reached 13 by the time we got up!

Papaw looking over the completed hog house with me. Our "UFO" SLS (small livestock shelter) we made a few years back from a bale ring, rubber belting and an old large style white satellite dish is in the background.

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January 5th Dad had to go back to work so we all really missed having him on the farm… Since our highs for the second week of cold weather (approximately December 31st through January 4th) had been in the teens with several days not getting above 10 to 13 degrees, it was pretty nice having the temperature jump up to around 25! I got outside with hay hooks and rearranged some hay in the pole barn so I could pick up alfalfa hay I’d bought for mulching part of the garden. The hay has some mold in it which is not good for livestock to consume, but will do an excellent job of mulching and fertilizing the garden!

Granddad went to pick up the alfalfa hay with me the following day and it warmed on up to 35 degrees! We had to take it really easy driving on the back roads because many of them had a generous layer of ice which was really slick in spots. With the Lord’s help we had a safe trip and Granddad helped me unload all the hay into the pole barn. That night it snowed a little more and the wind picked back up to a gale. I’m getting tired of high winds!

In a couple weeks Granddad and I hauled 200 more bales of alfalfa (on separate days) for livestock consumption. On one load of hay a trailer tire went flat and then "came apart" before I noticed and could get the truck and three tons of hay slowed down! Thankfully we didn’t have too wild of a ride (the Lord protected us from having the truck and trailer get out of hand) weren’t too far from town and found a tire repair shop with the correct tire in stock!

January 7th I did multiple projects, but didn’t really get any of them completely done. Sealing up the back green house a little better came high on the priority list along with taking the small electric heater apart to clean out all the silly mud dauber nests which weren’t allowing the heater’s fan to work properly! After the back green house was ready for cold weather (they were predicting a few nights of negative digit weather) I finished cleaning out the crop residues in the big hoop house’s beds and made a few tomato cages as well.

Making tomato cages.

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It stayed so cold the eighth (maybe I’m just wimpy not wanting to work in 10 degree weather any more than I’ve got to) I elected to work on the library presentation some more. Now it is getting to the place that it’s going to be necessary for me to take some of my warm days to work on the presentation too! Sigh…I’d rather play in the dirt than on a computer PowerPoint presentation any day…well ok, so may be that negative digit weather did cure me of saying I’d rather work outside just ANY day!

That Sunday, the tenth, was our coldest morning at negative eight and also the warmest day, that we’d seen in nearly a week, reaching up into the lower thirties!

It took a few days of hit and miss working, but I finally was able to clean out the brooder enough to lay a pallet in the floor so there’s a place to put this year’s soil amendments when they come. There was a bunch of trash that just needed to be thrown out, but there was some rearranging and PHDing (Piling Hire and Deeper) that also took place in order to make room for that pallet!

January 12th Granddad helped me load several of the sheep and goats along with Mom helping me load the young pigs into our GTU (Goat Transportation Unit…would more properly be called the SLTU "Small Livestock Transportation Unit) in order to haul them down to the Coffeyville Livestock sale. I was very thankful the Lord helped us get both loads hauled that day. During our cold weather the pigs seemed to really enjoy their hot mash since they couldn’t find much in the way of pasture under all that snow!

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We are having to cut back on the livestock to try and make the work load a little more manageable here on the farm. Our plan is to sell all the sheep, goats and livestock guardian dogs. We’ll also sell most of the pigs as well.

At this time we have about 34 Dorper/ Katahdin, cross ewes (many have lambs by their side!) 4 livestock guardian dogs and 4 high quality, registrable dairy goats for sale. Two Nubians, two Alpine. I hope we can sell all the livestock directly to individuals so we don’t have to haul them to the sale barn. If you or someone you know would be interested in starting your own flock give us a call and we’d be happy to sell part or all.

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Oh yeah, for those of you who read this and may not live in our area, this past week was really warm with the daytime temperatures staying in the forties most of the time and getting up in the fifties (nearly 60) a few days! Our beautiful snow is gone now, but it was wonderful to have it to look at for two weeks. The snow is an insulating barrier against the cold as well.

Also, just in case you’re wondering if most years are this cold around here I can tell you it hasn’t stayed that cold for that long in many years! When Granddad and Dad were growing up it wasn’t uncommon, but since I’ve been around I haven’t had near this much fun seeing how "Global Warming" is changing the climate! Now with this past week being so warm I am getting concerned that many of the perennial plants and trees will get in too big of a hurry and start budding out before it’s time.

January thirteenth Mom started her new semester of school. Our family is extremely proud of her getting a 4.0 GPA last semester after years (we won’t mention how many) away from school!

Mom with her Belle (the jersey cow) while the snow was on.

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Since it’s been necessary to cut some wood this winter (zero degree and colder weather uses quite a bit extra wood we noticed) Dad and I have been going down our south fence line and selecting leaning trees and low overhanging limbs on our side of the fence for fire wood. This will help enable us to replace the fence easier as the leaning trees and low limbs are difficult to work around.

With the snow gone, sun shining for partial days and the beautiful warm weather I’ve jumped at the opportunity to mulch strawberries, clean up weeds, fertilize and mulch around some of the fruit trees, prune the raspberries, cut off all the old asparagus stalks and even taking Belle (the Belgian draft horse) out to drag some brush to a brush pile!

I started my sun shinny day and warm day projects mulching the strawberries so I could finish them before it got to be such a sloppy, muddy mess I couldn’t. It took most of one afternoon, but it was sure a good feeling to have that job completed even if I am a month late!

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Caye LOVED playing in the snow and had lots of fun trying to find rats and mice that were living under the snow!

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Everything was getting to be very muddy between the snow melting and ground thawing but it finally started to dry up a little with the breeze and sunshine. At first I thought it wouldn’t be much longer before we’d be knee deep and then for a couple days it actually started to dry up! Never fear, Kansas is here! Seeing that it was getting a little too comfortable we received another douse of rain the night of January 21st! Sigh…everything was sloppy muddy again. For a couple days it dried out fairly well once again, but now we’re supposed to have snow moving in!

January 27th I had the blessing of Curtis Miller, a volunteer, to come out and help. First off I had to straighten up the stakes in the big hoop house which mark out the beds… Mom’s cows had gotten out while the snow was on and discovered the big hoop house was warmer even with the doors open than outside with the snow on the ground! When we found the cows they’d tromped around inside most of the hoop house (thankfully we didn’t have anything planted in there!) and decided to lay down and chew their cud.

Curtis and I were able to prep the big hoop house by spreading compost, a little of Fertrell’s all-natural Earth Friendly fertilizer and lime. After applying all the amendments we forked the all the beds lightly to incorporate them into the soil. I started having bad symptoms of fishing fever when we dug up some fishing worms! After Curtis and I ate lunch, and he had to leave, I prepped the small hoop house and then watered both hoop houses to moisten the soil a little.

It was beautiful out with a high of around 55 while working in the hoop houses, but that evening the day’s Southerly breeze calmed. A little after dark the breeze picked up a little but was coming from the other direction! By morning it had cooled down to 25 and an extra layer of clothes felt pretty good!

Seems as though things keep rolling faster and it’s harder to keep up with now, but, high ho and away we go! Lets get down, play in the mud and have a little fun while we work!

May you have a wonderful day!

Farmer Josh and the Mitchell crew

Belle and Blaze playing lazy in the barn.

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