Monthly archives "April 2012"

construction & inheritance

We’ve begun the initial work on building our new duck barn…..very exciting. Having a wonderful homebase for the ducks is sooo very important to us, and this will be it once we are finished building it. Construction work is very different & exhausting, after all the time we spend gardening, tending the animals (our kids), and delivering our products to the Twin Cities.

The posts for a building need to be set in the earth 4 feet deep to be able to withstand the deep freeze and potentials of the frost heaving them out of place. Thanks to a friend who lent us his gasoline-powered auger, we have tackled this project with more audacity than if we were looking at digging the holes with shovels or a posthole digger. Today we had a reality check- we’re augering into pure clay, and there are rocks. Each time the auger hits a rock, we brace ourselves after the jolt and have to hoist the 60 lb auger up out of the several feet deep hole. We finished two holes today, sort of a break-in day, I guess. Those posts are braced and perfectly in line, which is very reassuring. Tomorrow we go out for more elbow wrenching, wrist & back-aching work on the beginnings of our duck barn. We’re fueled by duck eggs and we LOVE our ducks!

It sure feels amazing to be able to build our own barn with our own two hands and some tools. But…..we couldn’t be working on this project without our supporters from our Kickstarter Project! We are so grateful to be here, working on our future, while tending the present. Right now we have 200 little lady duckies growing up to become part of the Big Lady Ducks of LTD Farm. They enjoy the sunshine, the fresh air and lots of TLC as they grow with us.

We have not inherited our farm or land, implements, or techniques. We are new farmers, a couple faces in the sea of a movement of folks embracing rural, agrarian dreams. What we do with those dreams is our choice. …Do we succeed and stay on with farming? Do we burnout and realize this is HARD work without much pay? Right now our farm is paying it’s way, but we don’t have a paycheck. That’s ok, we love what we do. If you enjoy hard work that is physically and spiritually satisfying, farming is absolutely the right choice. Everyday we are just so grateful to be here trying to make it work, so we may continue on. Embrace your successes, your shortcomings and failures.

Right now the rabbit kits are growing, the ducklings, turkey poults and broiler chicks are thriving, the goats are giving lots of milk, our garden is half seeded, waiting for the frost free date so we can begin to transplant out some of the planty babies waiting their turn. Our CSA shares begin in May, and we are ready! One more goat momma is due to kid in the next week, and life is grand. Happy Spring!

kits

Here on the farm we’ve had some difficulty getting started with our rabbitry, mostly because we had one Californian doe who gave birth to multiple stillborn litters. As she was our only doe at the time we gave her 5 chances to prove her worth. Right now she is hopefully pregnant, and this will be the last chance we give her to produce a large healthy litter before we make rabbit stew. This is the reality of the farm. She did have one healthy litter of five, and two of her girls we kept to see if they would be good mommas as well. This isn’t ideal, because ideally you wouldn’t fool around with a doe who is as skittish as she is or her offspring. But right now we are working with what we got, and sometime you just have to do that.

But meanwhile, we acquired a couple of New Zealand does from an Amish neighbor down the road. This is good because our Buck is NZ as well. We weren’t sure if the reason the momma doe wasn’t successful in her breeding experiences was because of her or him. But the two New Zealand does, Marshmallow and Stargazer, gave birth to litters as soon as they were ready. We lost Marshmallows litter of kits because she didn’t have them in the nest box and it was very cold. We weren’t even sure she was pregnant, but of course she picked a freezing cold morning to kindle.  This time we will be very observant with her to make sure the babies are in the nest box and cleaned. The other doe, Stargazer, surprisingly gave birth to a litter of 9, only one of which was dead. Happily  they are all doing well as of now, their fur has come in nicely and they cuddle and sleep most of the day away. Stargazer has turned out to be a great mother, adjusting the nest by removing fur in the hot weather and replacing it in the cold, as well as being a great milker apparently.

They have recently left the nest box and are enjoying the freedoms of the wild open.

Now the plan is to put them on pasture in rabbit tractors. I’ve read everything I could about the various rabbit tractors used on the net, but I also do not like to spend very much money or have a large hard to move pen sitting around. After making a pvc chicken tractor last year, I wanted to use wood this year. So for our broiler chickens and rabbits this year I made a simple design using ripped 2x4s. The only difference between rabbit and chicken tractor is I used 1/2″ hardware cloth for the rabbits and 1″ chickenwire for the rabbits. No flooring on the rabbit tractor yet. We’ll see how that goes first.

I kind of hate working with ripped 2x4s. Everytime you put in a screw, they split, unless you drill a pilot. Do you have time for that? Not me.

The whole thing is 4’x8′ by 2′ high. Rip 3 2x4s. Make the top and bottom frame, then attach all 2′ sections to the bottom frame. The trick is you need help getting the top frame attached. After some trial and error, the best solution seems to be to attach a 4′ piece of 2×4 to the middle of the top frame, have somebody stand in their and hold it up, and screw that onto all the uprights. Then staple 2′ mesh around the outer perimeter. A 25′ roll fits just about perfect. For a roof, right now I’m using a 8′ long piece of metal siding and a board, with a bungee up and over.  This could be improved. The middle 2×4 acts as bracing for that, and you could hang a waterer from it as well. It’s pretty sturdy, as there are three connections at each corner joint, but light enough for me to drag around.

I’m sure next year I’ll have an entirely different idea, but these should last for the year no problem. We’re figuring on about 16 rabbits per tractor or 25 chickens. With our chickens, we generally let them out of the tractor during the day anyways to forage, so we could put a few more in there. The more we observe our birds, the more we think they really do not mind being close together overnight, as most birds seem to have a flocking instinct, and they also keep eachother warm. We’re still learning about the realities of rabbits, but we think that if we let them out of the rabbit tractor they would most likely cause some havoc in the gardens.

We plan to have all of our tractors surrounded by movable electric fencing this year, because they will be out of our range of sight and hearing.

Dining with Dara mentioned our farm on MPR!

Dining with Dara: Chickens move over, there’s a new egg (or two) in town

by Dara Moskowitz-Grumdahl ,
Tom Crann, Minnesota Public Radio

April 4, 2012

 

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St. Paul, Minn. — Easter is this weekend, and across Minnesota kids and families are busy dyeing eggs. Most are dyeing good old traditional chicken eggs, but there are new eggs in town: quail eggs, duck eggs and even naturally green eggs. Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, MPR News’ regular food and dining correspondent and Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine’s senior editor, talks about the new egg scene boiling away these days in Minnesota.

Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl: This week, I bring you news both big and small. The big news: duck eggs. These have become popular over the last two or three years at Minnesota farmer’s markets and co-ops, and they’re a little bigger than ordinary chicken eggs. Now, the small news: quail eggs — they’re tiny, about the size of a teaspoon.

read the rest…

hoophouse love, etc

Luscious Goatmilk Soap made on our farm, available @ Seward Co-op in Minneapolis

bluebirds everywhere

at 1 1/2 months, the March ducklings have grown incredibly big already, thanks to the hoophouse brooder!

assorted pepper plants, just about ready to move to the hoophouse

basil........you can smell just looking at it!

soil blocks are WONDERFUL- sprouting in the hoophouse for transplanting later into the garden

1 day old baby "Bubster" we use our planting room as our chick brooder for their first 2 tender weeks, this saves energy by conserving heat. We have a couple chicken shares remaining for end of June Harvest.

the site of our new duck barn- close to the house, close to the garden- perfect!

the October ducklings going back inside after a morning romp

lettuce after transplanting in the hoophouse-looks rather pitiful

after a week, the heads are begining to form and the colors are coming about. More color in vegetables = more nutrition!

summer turkey babies eating weeds before they moved out to the hoophouse

baby cabbages in the hoophouse

 

chevre & nettle duck egg “stroganoff”

For 4 servings, creamy, tangy, nourishing spring food w/ a no-cook sauce method!

Flour, duck eggs, garlic, bacon fat or olive oil, salt, nettles, chevre.First, gather nettles. Use gloves, and only take the top couple inches of fresh spring growth. Once you have a nice bowl full, use your scissors to cut through the mass of the nettles and make them smaller in length. No need to wash unless they are dirty. Now make your pasta- use 1 1/2 cups of flour, a sprinkle of salt and mix in 2 large duck eggs. Knead a bit until smooth and not sticky, sprinkling on flour as needed, then let dough rest as you prepare the rest. Put a pasta pot on to boil. Heat a medium sized cast iron pan with your oil of choice. Chop garlic (as much as you want, it’ll mellow as it carmelizes) and sautee on medium/low. Take 8oz or so of fresh chevre and smear into a big mixing bowl. Roll out your pasta, as thin as you can easily manage, don’t stress if it is thick, it’s just wonderful. Cut into ribbons with a knife. Add the nettles to your sauteeing garlic, drizzle a bit of the pasta water over the nettles, stir and cover. Back to pasta-  all at once drop the ribbons together into the boiling water, stirring immediately for a few seconds to prevent them sticking together. Cook about 4 minutes- taste test as the cut and thickness vary. Uncover nettles and they should look deep dark green and very wilted, toss them and bit, then turn off heat. Drain the pasta using a lid, not a strainer, leaving a bit (1/2 cup or so) of the cooking water in the bottom of the pot. Pour this all into the mixing bowl with the chevre, toss it around to soften the chevre. Add your nettle mix, some salt and pepper to taste, toss and serve.

busy busy

We all have accepted spring’s arrival at this point, so our noses have been to the grind stone on all the BIG PROJECTS going on here at LTD Farm. The most important of all is going to be the NEW duck barn, which we are very very excited about building and having for a super safe night home for the ducks. The hoophouse has many advantages for housing ducks, but it’s weak point is the fact that it is not a predator-proof structure. Praise be to our dogs and our change of arrangements, we’ve had no predator problems since last summer.

Before the duck barn could be sited in place, we had to move the goats. When we moved here in 2010, the goats got plunked into a center of the farm scenario, due to the fact that there was one small building here that would work as their home. After 2 springs, we learned it’s not the perfect location for them. Goats are now located right behind the workshop pavillion, which will be very atmospheric for our “Getting your Goat,” “Cheesemaking” and “Making Goatmilk Soap” workshops held on the farm this spring, summer and fall. With Andrew’s building prowess, and Khaiti’s fence wrangling experience this project is DONE, and the goats moved into their new digs yesterday. The few cars that pass by on the road are driving by slowly to take a look at the goats! The pasture is now 4 times as big and the goats totally LOVE IT! Milking is now done right next to their area in a sweet little playhouse parlour, and this has simplified the often dramatic milking-time twice daily on the farm.

Today we cleaned out the goats’ old shed, worked on building our cache of on-farm fertility in the form of perfect compost in the works. Our goats ate over 100 bales of hay over the winter, grown on our land!And it is mostly all sitting in a form of baby compost right now. Fertility from the land for the land…how magnificent.

Our CSA begins next month and we’ve been fortunate to begin in the garden already. AMAZING! Last year we had snow at least three times in April, and here we are sweating as we garden. We’ll be improving all our methods with the new garden space, which was pig-a-tilled last year by our crazy, rambunctious pigs. They did amazing work of clearing out so much of the root base, bringing rocks up, as well as fertilizing……and they made our customers very happy with their meat as well. Thank you pigs. We’re taking a break from their shenanigans this year, but once you experience a pig-a-tilled soil, it’s hard to not want to figure out a way to incorporate them into the scene.

New babies…….Beautious spring blossoms…….And the FESSA (Farm Enterprises in Small-scale Sustainble Agriculture) Conference went very well on 3/31….excited for next year already and this time to help plan and then listen! There are soo many exciting new food-creators out there, it is 100% inspiring.