It’s hard for me to imagine that about two months have flown by since the last update! I haven’t done very well keeping everyone informed about what’s been going on around the farm so here we go!
Spring greens! I’m looking forward to providing our customers with spring greens from our big hoop house this spring! Stay tuned for availability. From past experience harvest will start about mid April. This should provide our customers with early produce before the farmer’s markets start up so you can have more healthy, locally grown food.
Lord willing, our perennial crops such as asparagus, strawberries, blackberries, red raspberries and pie cherries will also be producing in their respective seasons!
The last update was written right around Thanksgiving which was one of our coolest days of the year. A low of 14 degrees that morning seemed really cold then! Two days prior to that two of Mom’s international student daughters (they claim each other as such any way) Miki and Akiyo, came to the farm so they could spend a little time here before going back home. They were a great help around the farm and house.
One of Granddad and G-Jean’s foster daughters came down with her daughter and grandkids the day before Thanksgiving as well. With so many small busy bodies around (three under 9 years old) we played a little, looked at the animals, moved the chicken palace, unloaded a trailer of wood and loaded all of them up with Miki and Akiyo to go see the beaver dam. Holding still for a few minutes by the beaver’s lodge we got to see one of the great architects come up and swim around while checking us out!
On Thanksgiving day we had a full crew with all Mom’s international student daughters coming out. With two Korean “daughters”, Yeojin and Moa and two Japanese, Akiyo and Miki they nearly doubled our families’ Thanksgiving table numbers. At the same time we celebrated Granddad’s birthday. Once again Jena and G-Jean created a beautiful cake with an double open hearth fire place. Granddad enjoys their real stone fire place so it was very fitting.
After dinner we got G-Jean’s Christmas decorations down (traditional for our family) and everyone joined in the decoration process! Since Granddad and G-Jean’s tree is so old (over 30 years now) we always flock it with quilt batting to spruce it up a little. All the girls started playing with it and we found “snow” scatter all through the house! They also had fun decorating themselves a little too.
During the expanse of time between these farm updates I have been spending a considerable amount of time working on the south fence. Thankfully the project is coming along very well although not as fast as I’d like.
Aunt Donna and Danny came by (not blood kin, but we claim them!) for a few days visit on their way back to South Texas. It was sure good to see them again as it had been around a year and a half. Danny was great help going out and helping me fix fence and throwing fire wood on the trailer as I cut it up. He also helped me haul a load of tomato cages and figured out a way we could get a considerably larger amount hauled per trailer load!
Granddad decided to go deer hunting on the last day Danny was here and actually got a nice buck! While field dressing Danny got in on a real anatomy class!
Marisa also came out to help one afternoon and we tackled, and conquered, mulching the strawberries for the winter. I had to re-cover a few short stretches after high winds peeled the straw off.
A fun and exciting note! We missed seeing that a hen had started laying eggs in an outdoor nest she’d made until after she’d already started setting. Deciding to let her go and see what would happen she hatched out six cute fuzzy chicks! Black and golden/tan colors make her hatch a uniquely colorful bunch!
In mid December I had a fun three day trip up to Stewartsville, MO to pick up a corn binder which we hope to restore, then dropping down to Platte City, MO so I could visit with Klaus and LeAnn Karbaumer whom I’d just briefly met a couple times. They also have a CSA farm using strictly hand and horse power for their entire farm. It was a privilege to visit with them and I learned a few things while having fun!
To complete the first day’s journey I came in for a landing at Jakob Knisely’s farm in Rich Hill, MO. He is an old order Mennonite acquaintance I’ve gotten to know a little better over the last few years. It was dark when I pulled in, but he had a lamp and was out working on a manure spreader which he’d been fixing up off and on for the past few years. With the spreader nearly ready to go he really wanted to complete the repairs that night, but one mechanism was really giving him fits. I worked on replacing the shanks on his cultivator, but finally late at night he decided to call it a day and try again first thing in the morning. Thankfully by lunch time we were ready to try the spreader out!
Harnessing and then hooking up the horses we pitch-forked a half load of manure into the spreader and gave it a fling. It worked beautifully! Loading and unloading another load we filled up the spreader for the third time. Unfortunately this time the spreader’s floor drag chain broke a link so we had to hand unload it. We were invited over to his neighbor’s farm for supper so got cleaned up a little and took off in the buggy.
My second full day with Jakob was spent helping at a “frolic” where the entire community had come together for a house and barn raising! It was a lot of fun working with them and with approximately eighteen guys working on each the house and barn (36 guys total) we could see great strides of accomplishment by the end of the work day.
I did pull out for a little while to check on a wood cook stove for Mom and Dad at the community country store. Deciding it was a go I made arrangements for the store owner’s son and Jakob to meet me at the store after the frolic so we could load the 650 lb. stove. With a pallet jack and some elbow grease we got the stove loaded and I was on my way back home with some fun educational experiences under my belt.
Mom’s Silverlaced Wyndottes are really growing beautifully now and should start producing eggs by March. While their eggs will be small “pullet” size starting out they are always delicious and packed with flavor not found in grocery store eggs!
Another fun learning experience was attending the Great Plains Growers Conference in St. Joseph, MO. Since both my “cousin” John Crisp (once again not blood kin, but we claim one another) and I could only attend the fist of the three days of seminars we decided to car pool with one another from Beto Junction to St. Joseph. It was an enjoyable travel time getting to catch up with one another again.
After the first cool spell in January the temperatures rose to unusually beautiful weather with temperatures in the 60’s and a couple days nearly 70! We knew it couldn’t last though and January 10th was our last warm day. Early the morning of January 11th it was snowing and both the 12th and 13th we had single digits showing on the thermometer. By the 14th our temperature dropped to -2 and thankfully it’s been warmer since then!
Despite the inclement weather Mom and I had to pick up Moa late the 11th at the Tulsa airport during our blizzardish snow storm. While there wasn’t a great amount of snow the wind was howling and blowing snow across the road faster than the snow plows could clean it off. Also our green Subaru sounded like it had a wheel bearing going out. Thankfully we made it down to Tulsa ok, but after picking up Moa decided we’d better find a hotel to spend the night and drop the Subaru off at a repair shop the next morning.
Up early the following morning we arrived at the shop as soon as they opened and got a rental car to come home. Unfortunately this made Moa late for her first day of classes, but thankfully they were able to fix the car.
I’ve finally gotten back around to using Bell and Blaze a little more. While there’s not a lot we can do this time of year I have hauled a few posts in with them, they’ve pulled my supply trailer down to the south fence project and we even cut a couple loads of wood together!
Once again my desk had piled up over the past growing season, so I spent a couple days and then more short stints sorting through my piles and following up on some contacts I’d made. Thankfully with the filing system Dad helped me start last winter the process is going a little faster now, but I’m still not finished with it yet.
I’ve also worked on barn plans a little trying to figure out what would be the most practical for our farm and yet flexible enough it could accommodate other types of enterprises if we’d choose to try something new. We’re still in the thinking and planning stage right now. Our main goals and functions of the barn are hay storage with easy access to feeding the livestock and manure collection.
With our outdoor hay stacks and individual pens for each kind of livestock it’s been working pretty well this year, but it does take quite a bit of time to feed everyone. Also, it is difficult to collect all the manure for composting at this time and having a central barn to pick up the manure would be very good. I also understand that nutrient values of manure and the compost forth coming are nearly double when stored in the barn as opposed to outdoor storage where the elements leach away many of the soluble nutrients. When the proper amount of bedding is added the animals are very comfortable living in the barn and smells are virtually non-existent.
A few flowers now blooming in the back green house remind us that spring is on the way and it won’t be winter forever!
With a couple of sunny afternoons I worked on cleaning out the big hoop house. There were still a few straggler crops I could harvest and the henbit really enjoyed having a little extra room since our last big fall harvest. Aphids must have also really enjoyed the environment as they’d taken over! I’m trying to meticulously clean all the plant matter out of the hoop house trying to remove as many aphid colonies as possible. Opening up the hoop house and allowing it to freeze hard will hopefully also decrease their survival rate!
As Miki did earlier for the fall semester, Akiyo came back from Christmas break a little before school started to help adjust from the jet lag. She decided to stay on the farm until classes started and was a great help to Mom doing chores both outside and in the house…
…She even helped milk our family milk cow!
I’d better sign off for now, but will keep you updated on what’s going on around the farm!
Farmer Josh and the Mitchell crew
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A beautiful Kansas sunrise…pictures never do them justice.
Lantana blooming in the back greenhouse.