Blog Archive

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Renovating the Cheep Shed

There is an old building on our property.

I love this building.  It is weathered grey like old cedar and has a slanting metal roof.  It has five, five-foot tall windows that all face south.

It is large - 11'x30' - surprisingly originally used as a chicken coop.  The old chimney holds witness to the fact that they also used to brood baby chicks in here, keeping them warm with wood stove heat, a task I am happy to hand over to a heat lamp and extension cord.

This building has long sat unused, save for swallows and wasps, and was, when we bought the farm this summer, full of a number of long boards, wood posts, broken glass and about 15 years of dust and debris.

Cleaning out the old chicken-coop-cheep-shed

Although it was built for chickens, we'll be using it as a barn this winter. Within its walls it will house our alpacas, any sheep we acquire in the near future, any rabbits we acquire in the near future, and all of our poultry {38 birds and counting!}.

I've dubbed it "The Cheep Shed."  Chickens + sheep.  And, baby chicks go "cheep cheep." AND we're doing this on the "cheap cheap."

Great progress has been made on renovating the space over the last few weeks.  Our friend Allison helped us recently and that made the work go even faster.

Allison removes boards guarding the broken windows

{Thanks Allison!  Please come back again soon!}

The square hole door was used to muck out the building every spring.  We'll be using it as the pop hole door, a door big enough to allow full-grown turkeys to pass in and out.  {Papa Bear will be building a ramp for this purpose}.

Boards and debris have all been removed, hardware cloth wire has been added to all of the windows to keep out poultry predators, a stall divider, which we found in the barn, has been installed to divide the poultry side from the ruminant side, and nest boxes - also inherited with the property - have been cleaned up and new bottoms installed to replace the rusted out metal ones (made from the boards we removed from the shed).

Papa Bear works on the Cheep Shed

An old red gate we found buried in the tall grass near the garden will be the human pass-through door into the poultry side.  A very very old ladder that we inherited with our 100-year-old duplex in Duluth and moved with us four times will finally find new life as our roosts.

Old ladder from our 100-year old house in Duluth becomes roosts

All we have left to do is lay down some barn lime, lay down some wood chips, add some straw bedding, and put in the poultry.

They'll need to stay inside the barn for a few days to acclimate to their new homes, as for most of their lives they have lived in the mobile chicken coops

Not long after that we'll add ruminants to the other half of the barn.

And then everything will be just as cozy as can be.

And that is what we do for Cheep Thrills around here on the weekends.

Feel free to join us any time!

Cheers -

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fall on the Little Farm

The broilers are all processed and the last of the lambs go to market this weekend.

Signs of fall

Life is slowing down on the Little Farm.

Fall colors in the back pasture

And after the summer we've had, slow is good.

1971 Airstream and fall flowers

Fall is my favorite season, and as life slows down, I am remembering why.

Farmer's market boquet

Cheers -

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Um... can someone straighten that picture frame?

Some day I will post things the same week they occur.

This will happen right after we hire a full-time live-in maid/housekeeper/cook/gardner.

And I don't have a work a 9-5 day job anymore, and can spend all my time tending critters and writing stories.

Alas, since this has not yet happened, this post is already sadly out-dated.

"Recently," we spent one glorious afternoon in the Reedsburg, WI area, under the guise of attending the Fermentation Festival.

No, this festival isn't the celebration of eating too much cabbage and torturing your spouse all night.

Giant color crayons? No, corn cribs!

It's a two-weekend festival of classes around the ancient and varied arts of fermentation including vegetables (OK, so there might be some cabbage after all), tea (Kombucha), cheese, bread, wine, cider and beer.

I would love to write about all the informative classes we attended, but we didn't register early enough to get into the ones we wanted, so we opted for the Farm/Art DTour instead.

The Farm/Art DTour is a 50-mile self-guided loop that takes you out into the countryside, where artists have teamed up with farmers and built temporary art installations on fields and pastures close to the highway, like this tractor which has been built into a stack of firewood.

Hmmm... now where did I park my tractor?

And this cabin made entirely of pallets.

Cabin built of pallets

There are also artist-built mobile road-side culture stands like this one selling locally grown produce, and pasture performances by area musicians. 

Mobile road-side culture farm stand

Despite our disappointment in not being able to attend any classes, the tour still made for a lovely fall day and we thoroughly enjoyed our scenic drive through the unglaciated hills and valleys of Sauk County.

Sans fermentation.  Or cabbage. 

We may not have found any cabbage, but we did find these ginormous pumpkins at BP Farms Sunflower Barn for just $2.00/each. Can you see the pumpkins dancing in Papa Bear's eyes?

Can you see the pumpkins in my eyes?

No?  Let's try again then:

Visions of sugar-pumpkins dance in his head...

It felt wrong to spend an entire day in the vicinity of the 'Ferm Fest' without actually participating, so after the art tour we went home and shook the 5-gallon carboy of fermenting pear cider in our kitchen.  

Or what I like to call, "what-to-do-with-20-gallons-of-pears."

Cheers -

Monday, October 15, 2012

Remember this?

day old turkey

Hard to believe that was three months ago already.

Little flock of turkeys at the Little Farm
The gangs all here

And this?

Turkeys like Head & Shoulders

They still do this, by the way.  Even though they're much, much bigger. Or on my boot.

Sweet little turkey female asleep on my boot
Sweet female asleep on my boot

The females have a new trick however - roosting on top of their coop.

Every night around dusk I have to go out there and fetch them off the roof and put them inside.

Nowadays, if you're lucky, you can catch my males "struttin' their stuff" showing off for the ladies, and I've even heard one of them gobble a few times.

Struttin' for the ladies

They're still far from full-grown and will live safely in the barn all winter, bypassing all of the usual Thanksgiving activities.

And if they all stay as sweet as they have been until next spring, we might just be having Easter ham instead of turkey.

Cheers -

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Rue checks out my progress on the sheep shed

 All of them, it would appear.

Zoey & Mojo check out the sheep shed project

At least, all of the non-ruminants currently living on the farm.

Kali in the mint... or is it, nip?

Kali checks out the mint, which she suspects might have some nip hidden in it.

Zoey peeks into the sheep shed

Zoey approves of this project.
 Zoey peeks

Cheers -

Thursday, October 4, 2012

"I can take you for a ride on my big green tractor..."

Despite the worst drought in 60 years, third crop was recently cut on the Little Farm, most of it from the back acres that have not been grazed or cut this season.

We ended up with ten round bales. 

Mojo & Kali enjoying the shade of a Big Bale

And a half.

Baby Bale has grand hopes of becoming a big hay bale some day.

Mojo off to explore the rest of the bales

I haven't broken the bad news to him yet.

Which reminds me of one of the oldest jokes I know:

Kali "baling" out of here

Who's bigger - Mrs. Bigger, or Mrs. Bigger's baby?

Mrs. Bigger's baby is just a little bigger.

Baby Bale blues
That's what Baby Bale needs to be - just a little bigger.

Cheers -

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Cutting hay at the Little Farm

Prior to last summer I was a hay-making virgin.

That is, "I didn't know nothin' 'bout makin' no hay bales!"

All I knew is somehow they magically went from standing grass to bales, either squares (large or small) or rounds (big or bigger).

All the machinery in between was a mystery to me.

Cutting straw-like hay at the Little Farm

{In an effort at full disclosure, most of these photos were taken during second cutting but I never got around to posting about it.}

Last summer at the Big Farm I finally got a chance to see the process.  My first day at the farm I got to move some round bales with G the skid steer

(Yes, I still hate you G).

I watched my buddy cut and rake the hay, then haul the big green John Deer baler around the hay field plopping out round bales like a fat green toad regurgitating its dinner.

Here on the Little Farm we have between 18-25 acres of hay, depending on how stupid courageous you are with your hay-making equipment.

Raking straw-like hay at the Little Farm

We have no hay making equipment.  So we asked our good friends at the Big Farm f they would help us out, for "halves."

I didn't know what "halves" meant before coming to the Big Farm, either. 

For those of you who never grew up on/near a farm, "halves" when some kind soul with the equipment you don't have offers to do all the work and take half of the hay crop.  In return, you get your hay cut, raked and baled.

For free.

I think we need to move this concept into the wider culture.

Papa Bear raking hay bales

For instance, I'll let you come and mow my entire lawn and you can take half of the grass clippings home with you.   

For free!

Or, I'll let you come and do all my dishes and you can take half of the clean dishes home with you.

See how lovely that would be?  Eventually I'd be down to just 2 plates and I could do those myself.


Anyway, the first crop of hay came off of this farm the third week in May.  Our half of the harvest was 14 large round bales (about 1000# each), or about 7 tons.

The second crop we weren't able to cut as many acres since without much rain this summer, the grass just wasn't growing very much.  What was cut came out to just under 300 small square bales.  Which would be about 15 large round bales.  So basically half the volume of the first cutting.

Balin' balin' balin'

But that's OK, because we only have 4 alpacas and they're only going to eat about 4 small square bales/month each.  Which leaves me 126 more square bales and 14 round.

Plus third crop, which is mostly going to be the stuff in the back pastures that never got grazed. 

With this drought I'm being told hay will sell at a premium this winter and next spring, so we're hoping this crop will actually make us some money.

And hay - wouldn't that just be a sweet deal.

Cheers -

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