Mar 012013
 
“Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.” Psalms 51:10-12

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.” Psalms 139:23-24

sun thru an icy tree

The Psalmist David knew that although other people see our outward appearance God is the one who truly sees who we are and searches our hearts. 1Chronicles 28:9. David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22) and knew how the Lord desired much more than just outward appearances of worship. It is the Lord’s desire for us to humble ourselves before and truly love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength!

ice at the small pond
It’s a little wet around the edges now… we even have some mud to slop through as I’m doing chores! After such an extended drought it is a blessing to have a little mud again. The snow has been excellent for the ground we have worked up in preparation for planting as it will soften and soak the tilled soil so that it’s very friable, fluffy and loose as it dries back out again. An additional benefit is the snow will also leave some nitrogen for the plants to grow on. Some even say that there are particles of other micro nutrients and trace minerals in the snow and as it melts away it leaves a small deposit of rich minerals on the surface. Continue reading »

Nov 272010
 

There is a beautiful light squish beneath our feet again! While too much rain isn’t good, it’s certainly nice to have had a healthy dose of rain lately! It was timed just perfectly to soak up the soil with light showers falling off and on with an occasional heavier rain coming along. What a difference it made in the appearance of all the plants which made it through our short bout of freezing weather. We also received another drizzly rain a few days later.

A huge thanks to each of you who ordered produce and helped us clean out the hoop houses! Thank you also to each person who has made this past year’s growing season a blessing in so many ways. Whether you were a CSA member, purchased produce, passed along information and ideas you had, volunteered or were cheering us on from the sidelines I thank you greatly.

clip_image001

G-Jean and I were cleaning out the hoop house and as I was harvesting for the last time this season I was reflecting how many ways the Lord has blessed us throughout this past growing season. Everything from bumper crops, timely rains, a few pieces of equipment to help ease the hand labor a little, blessings of individuals coming out to help on the spur of the moment right as we were needing help, to working share members who were a tremendous help throughout the entire CSA season. Wow has the Lord really blessed in so many ways.

The lady bugs have been seeking locations for hibernation and have all but disappeared after a great gathering a couple weeks ago!

clip_image002

Important 2011 information! Ordinarily this would be the time to sign up for this coming year’s CSA. However, this year is different as we will not be doing the CSA next year. My CSA experience has been good in several ways and I appreciate so much what each person has contributed. It’s really been a blessing to meet so many new individuals each year.

I realize that it takes about five years to get a business established and we’ve just completed the fifth year of CSA. However, several aspects of what I’ve been doing aren’t sustainable and something must change for me to continue and be able to make a living. I’m sure more efficient use of income can always be obtained and standards of living must not be set too high, but at this time I couldn’t continue on if Dad and Mom weren’t so kind and allow me to continue living under their roof. Thus, due to this and several other factors, I plan to use this coming year to work toward finding more sustainable ways of operating the farm.

Lots of ideas have been thrown around, but I haven’t settled on exactly what I’ll be doing this coming year. Ideas range from raising a garden and marketing through on-farm pick up or farmer’s market, to not raising any garden and working on other aspects of the farm or possibly even traveling to and helping out on other farms. Traveling to other farms would broaden my knowledge base on how others handle (or don’t handle) prioritization of jobs that need done, varying growing conditions, natural pest management and weed management.

Whatever I choose to do during the 2011 season I want to also focus on weed control in the garden here as I anticipate and look forward to probably starting up the CSA again for the 2012 season although there may be changes.

clip_image003

On to what’s been happening around the farm lately. Dad and I discovered why we don’t go to auctions very often…I think we set a new record and went to two auctions within three weeks. I’m not sure how we managed as we’re usually doing well if we decide to take time for two auctions a year! In the last update I’d mentioned the cultipacker, six row cultivator etc., but at the next auction we really made too big of a haul. The auctioneers kept throwing stuff we didn’t want in with one or two items that we did want, so we ended up having a lot to sort out once we got home.

Since we’ve given nearly the entire farm and especially all our farm buildings PHD’s (Piled Higher and Deeper) for so long this last auction really overdid it and we had to take time and do some major sorting to make space for a few things. It took about a week to get it done! Sections of the farm are looking better, but we still have a long way to go.

clip_image004

We took the 16’ utility trailer to the auction, but also purchased the two four-wheel trailers at the auction to use for picking up loose hay. Our 16’ utility trailers worked ok this year for haying, but had a tendency to get hay jammed beneath the trailer which ate up valuable haying time while we worked to get the hay unstuck. The four wheel trailers have higher clearance and shouldn’t have that trouble.

Interesting side note. While digging through a box of stuff from the auction Dad came across an old bid number from an auction the owners apparently had attended at one time. The funny thing was that our number for that day was identical! Number 70! On the reverse side of their number we found a hurriedly written homemade lye soap recipe.

clip_image005

Adding to the sorting party was a carpenter friend who brought out a load of scrap boards he’d accumulated at a job he’d been working on. There were all sizes of lumber from sawdust to three inch scraps to fourteen foot boards with some kind of defect. Always being a gullible packrat, when he asked about bringing the load out I said sure, bring it on out and we’ll sort through and use what we can…that took another afternoon of sorting and then some additional time to load it in our old stock trailer that has become a dry storage container! It helps keep the boards relatively flat and dry so they’ll last until we use them. It was profitable though as there was quite a bit of salvageable building materials in there!

About the time we got all our sorting done it started in the stint of rain showers for a few days so Dad and I continued cleaning up the garage. Wow! I’m not sure if we’ve ever been this organized! There’s still a long ways to go, but the garage is looking better.

Dad worked on it mostly, but between the two of us Dad and I finished putting the poor old Ford tractor back together one day while waiting for the rain to slow up. After shelling out a transmission bearing last year (2009) you may recall we took some of the valuable haying season to tear the tractor apart and get that replaced. Once it was back together we tried starting up the tractor only to find it had also bombed out a main engine bearing! Since it would be foolish not to rebuild the engine once you have the tractor torn so far apart we decided not to go that route and instead put up loose hay this season. For multiple reasons we aren’t going to rebuild/repair the ol’ Ford in the near future so decided we’d be ahead to clean up the garage and put it back together. I about felt like I’d given up on a good friend when we rolled the old critter out of the garage and pulled it down to the recycle pile area for now. We put a tarp over it so it should keep relatively weather tight until we decide what to do.

clip_image006

Oh yeah, we also had to take advantage of a couple other opportunities… On her way to Coffeyville, Jena noticed where it appeared a semi had taken a curve too fast and dumped a whole bunch of brick off the road’s shoulder! When the brick kept setting there for about a week we decided no one was going to pick it up. Granddad and I took off and within a short time had a 16’ trailer load of valuable building material (brick) loaded up! It was hard to tell if we’d even made a dent in the pile too! There were a bunch of broken brick, but we were sorting out mostly the whole bricks.

Granddad had to get back home so he could take off for a graveside service. I jumped on unloading some brick then hopped on to doing most of the chores real quick. Granddad came home so I zipped over to the other trailer and discovered I needed to work on the trailer lights (thankfully that didn’t take long) then zoomed off to pick up some wood pallets a family in town was very generous in giving to us. Side note-we’ve already put a few pallets to good use! I finished up the last couple of chores real quick when I got back as the sun was nearly set for another beautiful Kansas fall night.

Going back the following Saturday Granddad, Dad and I were able to clean up pretty much all the rest of the brick pile with two more trailer loads. One load was mostly whole brick and the second had mixed half to whole brick. When we were there our second time a guy was picking up a few brick, but got all he wanted loaded up in his pickup bed and took off.

clip_image007

Originally repairing/replacing our south boundary fence was THE top priority, but as you may be able to tell other things jumped to emergency status (during our rainy days I was lazy and just didn’t really want to work on fence in the rain) so we’ve hardly gotten to work on what was top priority! We have made some progress on the fence though and all the wires are tightened on an 1/8th mile stretch. It’s a little slow going since we’re running from tree to tree quite a bit and trying to keep a free standing dead post between the living trees and wire. We’re hoping this will keep the wires from growing into the trees. We’re also driving T-posts in a few places (found that the fence line has a healthy supply of limestone rocks) and are tying some of the wood post “spacers” back to the trees where necessary. To keep our spacer post’s tie wire from digging in we have to wrap a piece of belting around the tree beneath our tie wire. All in all it’s a little slow going, but I think it’ll be one of the best perimeter fences we have when we’re finally finished. We also hope to plant hedge tree seeds in the hedge row between existing trees as well to make a hedge fence along the wires so we shouldn’t ever need to replace the fence again!

clip_image008

One day’s example of our priorities shifting from fencing to other things was November 13. Rain brought in a cool front and the temperatures were reaching freezing and a little below some nights. This called for lowering the sides on Mom’s chicken palace and “wiggle wiring” them in place to help keep her chickens warmer. Also on the agenda was moving the little chicken house so Mom could transfer her older hens into it and move the young laying chickens (those chicks have been growing!) into the chicken palace.

We typically have the small chicken house setting on blocks and only use it occasionally now as it’s more difficult to move than the chicken palace. Like most plans around here one thing kept leading to another. We had to jack up then block up the little strawberry shed storage building so we could get the skids from under it that we’d never taken time to extract after bringing the shed home. Dragging our extracted skids around we slid them under the small chicken house, lowered it off the blocks and skidded it to where the cows are now penned. We had to put up an electric fence so the cows wouldn’t tear up the chicken house.

The buckbrush berries are at their peak beauty now.

clip_image009

While getting the small chicken house set up Dot, one of Mom’s dairy heifers, proved that our fencer was grounded out by slipping under their electric fence wire to munch on the “greener grass” (it was pretty much all brown) on the other side of the fence. Crazy cow! She still had hay in her feeder! Dad started checking where the fence was grounded out and discovered that a dead locust tree had fallen over our electric fence! While it wasn’t grounding out the fence too bad (there were other grounds on the fence too) we needed fire wood so we cut up that ornery locust tree. By the time we got all that done it was time to do evening chores again and thus we had yet another day that we didn’t get around to working on the south fence…

In all our sorting through the garage Dad and I started adding up the hardware that we’ve collected over the last few years and realized the Lord has blessed us with most of the hinges, sliding door track, loose hay trolley system, tin and even many of the nails necessary to build the dream barn we’ve thought about so many times. Most of our barns are in severe need of either major repair or taken apart so we can use the lumber in another barn that is more suitable to our type of operation.

End-of-season greens!

clip_image010

Over half our barns were already on the farm when great grandpa Mitchell bought the farm back in 1955. Since then several things on the buildings have been let go over the years and they are now in the last critical stages of either needing major repair or us waking up one morning to see they collapsed! Of course G-Jean teased great grandpa many years ago about the old main barn only being held up by the hay bales which were in it and it’s still standing!

My dream barn includes a soil cement floor and slip formed rock wall through the first floor. This would keep the livestock from pushing out the barn walls and also allow us to keep adding compostable material throughout the winter, a carbon source such as straw and nitrogen from the livestock manure. In the spring when the livestock are usually out grazing on pasture we’d turn the hogs into the barn and allow them to turn our “compost pile” in the barn. We could then utilize all the recycled nutrients back on the pastures and garden area without rain leaching out valuable nutrients. One technical difficulty is the composting action creates an acid that slowly eats away limestone rock and concrete so we’re still figuring what might be the best solution on that.

The dream barn’s second floor would contain hay and possibly some grain storage for easy feeding of the livestock below. This is just a dream at this point, but dreams are free so why not have fun dreaming… and they even become reality sometimes!

Dad has been wanting to find an old Allis combine for quite some time so we could raise and harvest our own grain. Within just a couple of weeks we came across three and were able to get two of them. One will be for parts while we hope to do some renovating on the second to get it going again. These aren’t big or fast combines, but they will be plenty large for the amount of grain we’d be raising. They are pull type and while the ones we have are tractor pto driven some of these were designed to have a small engine setting on the tongue to turn the combine so either a few horses or a tractor could pull them.

clip_image011

We’re needing to come up with canvases for them and if we could come across one in a little better shape it’d be great not to have to fix one up quite as much as the one we’re planning to repair now.

Mom did find an old operator’s manual for the combine and bought it for dad and me…that book has all the settings necessary to harvest everything from lima bean seed (very large seed), to tobacco seed (looks like specks of dust), to clovers, peas, a variety of grasses, cabbage, zinnias etc. It’s pretty amazing! From what we’ve been finding out these combines were known as one of the best combines to harvest clean seed. Most of today’s combines literally waste more grain after the combine harvests than they’d originally planted and the seed in the hopper isn’t as clean either!

clip_image012

Better sign off for now!

Farmer Josh and the Mitchell crew

www.mitchellfamilyfarm.us

See our photo albums and follow us on Facebook. No Facebook account required to view photos.