Saturday, October 30, 2010

Is grass truly the basis of life?

One  of the pages above on this blog is about grass and how grass is the foundation of life. As odd as this sounds, it is in direct opposition to commonly held and taught beliefs in the agricultural world. Most of the agriculture world recognizes corn as the "perfect food" and the basis of life, even for animals that do not naturally eat anything but grass. I suspect this is due to the fact that the US government has and still does subsidize the corn crop of America to such an extent that no other crop can compete. For whatever reason, the government pays for corn to be planted so that it can be sold below production cost.  I'll stop here on corn since that is a separate blog post.

My purpose in this post is to state that my own views are evolving, and today I would offer that grass is at the foundation, but is not the foundation.  Something even more fundamental supports the growth of grass. My thinking in that post did not go far enough.  It is not enough to point to grass as the plant that provides the basis of the food chain, rather it is the soil that the grass grows in. The soil, its chemical and biological makeup, is the basis of life.

I'll be updating that blog post as soon as I can (and when the research on this is complete).

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Turkey tree

In our first effort to make the pasture more appealing to the turkeys... We built this odd looking "tree". Hopefully we can convince them to roost on it.

Land, Sea, Plants, Animals ...

In my researching methods for sustainable farming (farming here encompassing animals and plants) a fascinating sub world has come to light.  We all have seen "exciting new discoveries" from time to time that seem too good to be true. Only occasionally do they stand the test of time.  This discovery seems very interesting.

A respect PhD, Dr Maynard Murray, deceased, conducted some experiments all the way back to 1938 with fascinating results. Inspired by the extraordinary resistance of sea animals to degenerative disease, Dr Maynard explored what would happen if the qualities of sea water were applied to plants and animals on land.  The results are nothing short of astounding.

To summarize, virtually all degenerative diseases  tested were cured or significantly reduced through simple application of the trace minerals in  sea water. This was even the case for animals specifically bred to produce genetic dispositions to cancer. In this case, the genetic disposition to cancer was reversed in two or three generations.  the list of degenerative illness is amazingly long, surpassed only by the list of cures shown through sea minerals.

There is no magic bullet here, no single element or compound that affects this health change. It is the balance of minerals that seems to provide benefit. Changing the concentration of a few, even while leaving the components complete, makes the application ineffective. That, sadly, is probably one of the reasons that this knowledge has been all but forgotten in the modern world. It is only within the last few years, when people are finally realizing that we are killing ourselves through our food supply, that notice is being given to this amazing discovery.

The method is simple, sea water or the minerals evaporated from it, or added to the soil. plants grown in this soil are inherently more disease and pest resistant. Animals then fed on these plants are also amazingly disease resistant. It is as if restoring the soil to the balance of ingredients in the sea is a magic process for restoring inherent life to plants and animals.

We have not tried this out for ourselves yet, but I am hoping to implement a sea mineral application before next springs' garden and pasture growth. We will report here any findings. Until then I encourage to read through this amazing excerpt from Dr Maynard's book:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Another baby rattlesnake found

It seems that those who guessed the baby snake we found the other day was a rattler were correct. We found another one today, exact same size and coloring. This one was not more than 20 feet from where the other one was. Both were very near the turkey coop. After killing this one, I inspected the tail very closely and sure enough, there was a single tiny rattle segment at the very tip. The head was triangular also.

As happy as I am to have identified it, now I am worried. That makes two baby rattlers killed within 20 feet or the turkey pen within a week., This must mean that there is a mommy rattler hiding with her nest of eggs somewhere very close to the turkey coop. I don't know how many eggs are normally laid but surely its more than two, so there is a mommy and several more little babies slithering around our pasture. Having all these animals and three little kids running around makes this an unacceptable situation.

Sounds like it's time for a snake hunt... unless someone has a better (and safer) idea?

one turkey gone today

We let the turkeys out of the pen today to see what they would do. Sure enough they headed straight to the sheep shelter. So, we installed the rest of the electric fence to block off a third of the sheep pasture, and connected the electric charger. Then we moved the turkeys back inside that portion in their pen. When we let them out again, most stayed in, a few flew over the electric fence, and one unfortunate tom flew the other way into the horse pasture. He was stuck behind the center line fence as turkeys get stuck, unable to fly back over. He just walked back and forth at the fence crying for his friends.

Then things took a turn for the worse. Louie, our springer spaniel, took an interest in this one lost bird, and must have thought he was fair game. He started chasing the turkey. I made him stop and sent Louie out of the pasture, then went on about my business. Soon Louie couldn't resist, snuck in the pasture and started attacking the bird. By the time someone noticed what was happening, Louie had the turkey pinned down to the ground. We pulled Louie off and the turkey was able to walk. Unfortunately, he had serious damage. All of the skin on his right side from the neck line to the feet was torn off. Some of the wing bone was exposed and his breast and leg were completely exposed. Oddly there wasn't much blood loss.

At first I thought we could try to save him and placed him in the barn to heal. But, on closer inspection and realizing the extent of the wounds, it became clear that there was no way to prevent infection with such a huge gaping wound. He was obviously in a huge amount of pain and acting as if dazed. If we tried to save him, and he didn't make it due to inevitable infection, he would be wasted since we cant use a bird that dies from infection. So, there was only one choice. We put together a makeshift butchering station and put him out of his misery.

The good news out of this is that we were able to save most of the bird's meat to eat. We needed some poultry since lately we have been forced to buy poultry from the store (ack!).  I was also happy this happened to a tom and not one of our breeding hens. Nevertheless it was a sad thing to have to deal with.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tomatoes in the garage

We chose to try something new with the tomato plants for the upcoming freeze. Instead of covering and uncovering the plants in the garden... We removed the roots and all and hung them upside down in the garage. They are supposed to ripen even if still green this way.

We didn't pull the cherry tomatoes out. If we did most of the tomatoes would probably fall off in handling, and it didn't seem worth while. These are the heirloom large size tomatoes.

It is amazing how heavy these plants are this way!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Satellite picture of Little Sprouts Farm

It seems that high up in space, the satellites that google uses for mapping finally drifted over our farm and snapped a new picture. The google satellite picture up till now was over 3 years old and showed the property with the previous owner. Now you can see what all we have done to the property. All other services I checked still have the old photos up.

One problem yet remains with google maps. Our address shows up south of the actual driveway. If you look us up on google maps or google earth, look directly north of where the address is. Follow the long skinny driveway off dodge rd until you see the house. That is the southwestern corner of the farm.

Here is a labeled .jpg photo from google earth. unfortunately you cant really zoom it but still you can see the labels to get an idea of whats here.

This satellite photo was taken July 20-something of 2010.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Snake identification

Does anyone know what type of snake this little guy is? I found him in the pasture this morning. He sure acts like a rattlesnake. When approached he crouches into strike position and the end of his tail wiggles as if to rattle. He would rather stand his ground and fight than run off.

If you can help identify him please comment on this blog post.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Organic eggs... or are they?

I ran across the following news story with fascinating information. It seems that within the "organic farming" marketplace, many of the biggest suppliers are ... cheating. They are either flagrantly violating the regulations of the organic labeling, or have abided by the minimal standards as little as possible. This is the sort of thing that gets me really angry, and motivates us to make this family friendly and animal friendly healthy farm successful. There is such an extreme need to provide truly healthy food, which is not being done by the majority of food producers in America.

Here is the full story:

Here is the link to the video:

Here is the link to the "scorecard" mentioned in the video.  Take a look and see if the egg brands you normally buy are on here:

Two of the brands we used to buy (before we had our own chickens) because we thought they were better are on the list with a ZERO score! That really is upsetting. We paid top dollar for those eggs because they were "organic" and had good things printed on the label, and it turns out to be truly a lie. Not only did this cheat us out of money, but it also misleads the health content of the eggs. For instance... when we were buying those "organic" eggs, my cholesterol was very high. now that we only eat truly organic free range pastured eggs, my cholesterol is down to the level of a 20 something person. Now, I certainly don't mean to imply that the eggs are the only factor here, but I moved from eating bad "organic" eggs no more than once a week to eating truly good eggs virtually everyday, and my blood numbers are better than ever. At least it is true that the good eggs do not negatively affect cholesterol as claimed. Eggs do affect cholesterol negatively, but only factory eggs, not true farm raised eggs.

And that brings me to two points that I will research and blog about.

1. What do all these labels really mean? what is the legal definition of "organic" "antibiotic free"  "pasture raised" "free range" etc. These terms appear on packages, but what do they tell us about the quality of the food?

2. The "battle" is not truly about all those labels. The battle is really between factory production of food vs farm production of food. It is simply impossible to produce quality healthy food in a factory setting that comes anywhere near the quality of farm raised food. The critical point to explore is this... factories are NOT farms, they are factories. Farm animals do not live inside factories, and factory animals are not used on a true farm.

In the coming days we will explore these concepts and dig deep into the underlying principles. Our mission is to produce good farm raised food products, but also to educate the public on how to tell what good food is, where to get it, and why we need it.  I don't pretend to be able to conquer the entire factory food system, but with the Good Lord's help we will do our part to combat this evil lurking right under our noses. People like you deserve to know how their food is produced and how good the quality and purity is, and whether it will make you healthier or not, and whether the animals involved were treated humanely or not.

Stay tuned....

Disk broken again!

After about four passes in the back half of the horse pasture... The disk broke again. This time the bolts on the right front sheared off. All I can say is.. This ground is hard! After four passes it is cut to about half an inch ... Maybe a bit deeper in some areas. Some areas didn't cut at all yet.

Nevertheless it is ok to reseed. We managed to throw out all of the donated grass seed just as it started raining.

Unfortunately the disk is going to sit back there for a while til it dries up a bit and I have help to reattach the blades.

Hopefully this will give the grass a good start for next year.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pigs escaped again!

Once again I found not so baby pigs rooting in my back yard. Three of them had slipped out of the pasture gate. I had removed the posts blocking the space under the gate in order to drive the tractor with disc through and apparently they took advantage of the situation.

I also discovered two broken fence boards on the side of the pig pen. These weren't small light boards, we are talking 2x6 behind a thick hog panel.  These guys are so strong.

After a small chase we got them back in the pen. Two of them decided to get back in by climbing over a foot tall stump i had placed to block the back pen corner. They both got stuck on top of the stump and went to squealing like a "stuck pig". Of course this draws a crowd and within seconds we had every pig in the pen coming to see what was up. No one got hurt and finally everyone is back in their places.

The lesson learned here is that the pigs are strong. When they choose to, they can walk right out of their pen. They only stay in the pen when they want to, not because they have to. Its our job to make sure their pen and pasture is the happiest place on earth for them.

Today they escaped because I had not filled the feeders in time. Silly me was trying to stretch them until Saturday on the 10 bags they were fed last Saturday. I should have known better when yesterday there were only 2 feeders with food left. Sure enough all were empty by this afternoon and the pigs went looking for greener pastures.   In fact, every time the pigs have escaped, they were hungry for one reason or another.  common sense dictates that.... pigs should not be left hungry for any amount of time!

one last note.... we are sure now that penny is pregnant again. She is showing signs of being about half way along!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Garden salad for the pigs

Through the generosity of a couple of local families, we acquired about two pickup loads of vegetables plants for the pigs. Some of these even had some produce left on them. We cleaned out their organic gardens in exchange for keeping all the plants and leftover produce. After only a couple hours of work everyone was happy.

The pigs were especially happy when they received all the goods. We simply dumped all of the produce and plants in the pen and let the pigs dig through it at will, which they did! They rooted around in the pile of  plants for hours, until the pile had almost disappeared.

Here's a quick video of the pigs devouring the green salad.

Something isn't right here

While disking the pasture to reseed before the rain this weekend... We had a little accident. Apparently one of the mud scraper blades hit a tooth on the disc and sheared off the bolts.

Luckily it was a quick fix.

By nightfall I had done 2 passes across the hard ground of the back horse pasture. Obviously this ground had not been worked in years. The light disking should serve to break open the surface and allow the horse manure, dead plants, and eventually the grass seed to be incorporated into the top soil. If we can get this done before the rain this weekend grass should sprout next week.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sick turkey mystery solved through divine inspiration?

The sick turkey in isolation in the barn stall is still about the same today. To help him reach the water even easier we blocked him into a corner just large enough for him to reach the water and food from where ever he falls. Hopefully this will allow him to eat and drink more and gain his strength back.

Today, we may well have solved the mystery illness he is suffering from. I have centered all my research efforts on bacteria, virus, or protozoa based illness. The closest match was a couple of illnesses caused by protozoans found in wild birds and dirt, carried by worms. However, it still bothered me that there was only 1 turkey ill out of 26, even though they all lived together. The one is very ill, but doesn't seem to be getting better or worse all week. If he "caught" something, it should have affected at least some of the others in a noticeable fashion.

Then this morning, out of the blue, I wake up with two words ringing in my head. "milkweed poisoning". Funny thing is, i know nothing about milkweed, and had never considered poisoning as the source of illness. I got out of bed and googled  milkweed to see what it is. Guess what! WE HAVE MILKWEED IN OUR PASTURE. There were several small patches in the area I found the sick turkey! Some of the leaves and stems actually looked like they were pecked. Many of the seed pods have broken open and the stringy insides are floating around the pasture.

Ok, so we have milkweed, and i now know what it is. but what does this have to do with a sick turkey? Well, it turns out that milkweed is poisonous to turkeys! If a turkey consumes just 0.2% of their body weight of any part of the plant, it is potentially fatal. The symptoms match perfectly with how this one turkey is suffering.

pollinated flowers quickly transform into long slender pods
Whorled Milkweed
Milkweed is a very useful plant apparently. I produces a form of natural latex that can be used for rubber, the white fuzz from inside the pods can be used for string, flotation devices, or pillows, it can actually be eaten of processed properly, and it is the main food source for monarch butterflies. Unfortunately it is also very toxic to poultry (especially turkeys) and ruminants like sheep and horses. 

There is no treatment for milkweed poisoning  that I can find, so we have to keep the turkey as comfortable as possible and wait to see if he makes it without permanent damage.  I did manage to rid the pasture of all noticeable pants today. They filled the back of the gator there was so many!

Most importantly, we are very thankful that those two words popped into my head this morning upon waking. I would never have suspected this and was looking completely down the wrong path. I will give credit to our creator for pointing me in the right direction despite my ignorance on these matters. This is definitely a situation where help was needed from above.

Unique looking baby chick

Here is one of our new cross breed chicks. Unique feathering on this one. Best guess is a cross between a Kraienkoppe and a Golden Sex Link.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Turkey hospital patient not improving

The turkey that got sick has been in isolation for a few days, with no change for the better yet. We have him on food with added minerals and vitamins, diatamaecous earth, and herbal wormer. The drinking water has added electrolytes and probiotics. Today I found it necessary to move the water and feed bowl closer to the edge of the stall because he is too weak to stand and eat without falling over. When he is able to lay against the wall and reach the food and water he drank and ate some.

It is  very difficult to tell whats wrong with him, but best guess is pointing to infection by a protozoan parasite that is carried by wild birds and chickens.There is some evidence of a couple of other turkeys fighting the disease also, but they look like they are beating it. Just this one turkey is falling prey this severely.

Nevertheless we are treating the entire flock with extra wormer, probiotic, and diatamecous earth. I also have moved the coop to dry ground and will be moving to fresh ground twice a day until all symptoms have passed. This particular disease is mostly transmitted through bird droppings, so lessening the exposure to droppings is important.

Here is a video of the sick turkey. notice how he stumbles backwards and struggles to stand straight. If anyone has suggestions on how to better treat him please feel free to comment.

If he doesn't make it, an autopsy will tell for sure if he had the protozoan parasite, and if so which strain. This knowledge might help to treat the remaining flock.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Another 700 lbs of free pears for the pigs

We were given another batch of pears from a neighboring orchard. We are so thankful for the generosity of our community. These are prime tree ripened Bosch pears. VERY yummy! The pigs are getting so spoiled.

Blog hits over 1000 views per month

This blog has served to be the primary communication method for our farm, our ideas, our mission. This is now the fourth month since we went online and it is exciting to announce that we have hit a consistent 1000 views per month. For our little farm, that is exciting.

Its also encouraging to see the range of people interested in what we are doing here. There are view from about 20 different countries besides the United States. I am hoping that this represents a growing interest around the world in our food system and the human treatment of animals.

Unfortunately our  farming problems and subsequent health problems are not unique to America. America is a driving force around the world in many aspects of life, for better or for worse. We are exporting our poor standard of health and disrespect for animals and nature to "developing" countries around the world. This will be, I believe, one of the sad point of America's future legacy.

It is our responsibility to reverse this trend, and to awaken to the problems in our food system which undermines the health of future generations. It is also our responsibility to awaken to the reality that our first God given responsibility according to the bible (which America is founded on) is to take care of the earth we are given and all the animals and plants therein. 

We take these responsibilities seriously at Little Sprouts Farm, and are encouraged by the increasing popularity of this blog.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Family pear picking day!

Today we chose to pick some more pears for the pigs. The previous pears and apples are almost gone already. We loaded up the trailer with the gator and empty trash barrels, and headed out to the unworked orchard. This time we were joined by grandma and uncle Bradley too.

At the end of the morning we had about 900 lbs of pears to give the pigs. These were almost all good pears off the trees, not the ground. Most importantly, we had a great family day doing it!

time to get started with the buckets
finding some fallen from the trees

you can see how rough this unworked orchard is here
but never too rough for these guys!

Juggling anyone?

watch this Mommy!

Nothing better than climbing the tree to grab the juiciest one

Kaelyn takes a break to play jungle gym on the gator


what do you do when you cant reach the one you want? Use your hat!

Its raining pears!!!

Uncle Bradley just keep on picking

lets try this again

Even Grandma is having a blast picking pears

time for a break again... pear anyone ?

this one looks really good...


Looks like they REALLY like these!

Why is raw chicken meat so dangerous?

Ever wonder why there is such strong wording around being extremely careful when handling raw chicken meat in the kitchen? No other meat carries warnings such as raw poultry about contamination, bacteria, washing, etc.  We hear these common safety rules, but ever wonder WHY the chicken meat from our stores carries such stronger danger warnings?

The reality is that raw poultry, ALL raw poultry purchased from grocery stores and butcher is laced with bacteria. Virtually every scrap of meat must be cooked properly to reduce the risk of food poisoning. Raw poultry is so dangerous that the juice dripping off the raw poultry, should it come in contact with other uncooked foods, will virtually guarantee a bout of food poisoning of some degree.

So why is poultry so dangerous? Beef, pork, lamb, even seafood do not carry such strong warnings. I ran across this article today that helps to explain the mystery. If you eat poultry, and buy it from a local store, take a moment to read this article:

In short, it is NOT natural for poultry to be contaminated with bacteria so commonly. This is entirely a condition caused by America's food system, factory farming. It is these bad farming practices that are bringing the bacteria to our kitchens, not nature, no the chickens, it is man.

How sad is it that chickens raised on these factory farms, where 99% of the chicken in America comes from, are so mistreated that the nature given stress hormones allow bacteria to consume the chicken. Is this nature's way of stopping us from eating unhealthy chickens? Isn't this a signal to us that something is horribly wrong? It is truly impossible to "tweak" the factory farming system and thereby eliminate the food risk modern factory chicken brings to our kitchens and families. The system itself is wrought with so many bad processes that just reducing the numbers of chickens will have little if any effect. There still would be the mistreatment, rapid growth, overwhelming ammonia in the air, unsanitary conditions on the ground, constant antibiotics to reduce bacteria, and poor nutrition.  There would still be processing methods that virtually ensure fecal matter from inside the chickens is spilled int other cleansing water, contaminating the meat so badly that chlorine must be used to bring the bacteria count down to government acceptable standards ( the standards that say its ok for "one drop of juice to cause food poisoning) The only way to prevent stress hormone is to eliminate the sources of stress, all of them.

At Little Sprouts Farm, we are committed to providing poultry that is stress and bacteria free. Our birds are free to roam most of the time, and even when caged for particular reasons there is much more space per bird than the government recommends, and the coops have free air movement, sunshine, and are moved around the green grass as needed. They are provides organic feed, bugs, grass, and a host of treats. They roam the farm as chickens have for all of history until recently when factory farms became "the way". They are allowed to be what nature intended them to be, free chickens and turkeys.

The cost of decent food is a bit higher, that is undeniable. BUT, the choice is really between poultry that is laced with bacteria to the point that "a single drop of juice can cause food poisoning" and poultry that is bacteria free and full of healthy nutrition instead of antibiotics. The choice is between food fit to eat and food so dangerous it must carry warning label's. The cost of cheap food is in bad health, sickness, and resulting health care.

Little sprouts farm is committed to producing food so high above government standards that it is not dangerous to your health, but doing so at a reasonable financial cost. We think health of our families is more valuable than cheap "food".

Friday, October 15, 2010

Home Remedy - black tea bags for a stye

Along with our search for the best possible nutrition, we are also committed to rediscovering the wisdom of prior generation in health care. So much wisdom and knowledge has been lost since the popularity of medicines. While medicines certainly have a place, they always come with side effects and should only be used when necessary, so the old proven treatments without side effects are preferable when possible.  So I thought it fun to start documenting the "home remedies" that we try from time to time.

I ended up with a stye in my right eye, likely caused by touching my eye with my work gloves on the other day (yes, not smart). First I tried to ignore it for a day, but it got worse. Then i dug out an old bottle of antibiotic eye drops and tried it for a day. Still got worse. By the third day it was swollen and puffy like a traditional stye.

Some research led me to a few commonly used home remedies, one of the most popular that was easy to implement was black tea bags. You boil the water, drop the bag in, let it steep for a few minutes, pull the bag out and let it cool some, then apply the bag to the eye and let it soak like a warm compress. Supposedly the tannic acid in the tea is what works as an antibiotic, and the warm moist heat helps the inflammation and pain.

I tried it last night and today the stye is at least half gone. Hopefully one more day of occasional treatments will cure it.

Turkeys have an outing

Yesterday the turkeys seemed to decide to go for a little outing. I found a pair in one neighbor's yard, and another pair in another neighbors yard. Between the 3 yards, or pastures, there is a single corner post with a top 4x4 wooden brace. I am pretty sure what happens is they decided to roost on the brace overnight and when morning came, left in 3 different directions. Unfortunately turkeys don't seem to understand fencing so once they get on the wrong side, they stay there walking back and forth all day.

This did give me a great opportunity to meet a neighbor with a bordering fence line that we have not met since we moved here 3 years ago. How did it get to be so long!?!? They are a really nice retired couple that didn't mind at all me coming over to herd the turkeys back. In fact they, after a call to explain the need, I drove up to find them out back keeping the turkeys "cornered" until I arrived. It turns out that in his younger days, he actually raised some turkeys too!

Overall it was a pleasant experience, but nonetheless its time to alter the turkey confinement system. For now we will keep them locked in the big portable turkey pen as I modify the fence lines with electric and build some sort of suitable roost they will prefer.

As a side not... these guys are getting BIG! dropping them over the fence they seemed to weight a good 8 to 10 pounds. The biggest toms can almost look into the bed of the gator while standing on the ground!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Turkey hospital

I discovered a sick turkey this morning. He is a bit lethargic, Stumbles backyards, runs into things as if he can't see right, and has signs of pecking on his head.

He is in isolation in a spare horse stall with food supplemented with herbal medicine and fresh water. Hopefully he will recover.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sad news on the duck eggs

It appears that both duck eggs failed to incubate properly and will not be hatching. Since the chicken eggs hatched we have been candling the duck eggs every few days. Last weekend we determined that the first egg was no longer alive, and tonight we verified that the second egg also failed.

The lesson to learn here seems to be that is is not wise to place eggs in the incubator that will hatch on different days. I suspect that the hatching chicks contaminated the still incubating ducks with bacteria that then seeped through the duck egg shell and attacked the embryos.

Once again here is a case where nature knows best. The manner in which eggs incubate in nature allows for eggs of different ages to hatch on the same day. The mother responsible does not sit on the eggs until she has layed a full set. The first eggs do not incubate yet, they are held back by the cooler temperatures. Once the mom starts to sit on the eggs and raise the temperature, all the eggs proceed equally and hatch together.  That prevents the problem we just experienced in our incubator.

So, its time to clean and sterilize the incubator, and place another set of either chicken or duck eggs in (but not both) to start incubating.

Little Sprouts Farm Joins "Thrive" and the online farmers market

We are happy to announce that Little Sprouts Farm has joined the organization Thrive, which promotes local healthy food sources. This organization is working hard to build up the local small farm and assist in managing and marketing farm products, as well as raising community awareness of the differences available to consumers.

A new addition to Thrive is the online farmers market, which allows customers to go online, browse, and place weekly orders for fresh local farm products. It much like visiting a farmers market, but can be done in the comfort of your own home, and in any weather, any time of the year.  There is even an option for home or business delivery of products ordered!

Here are the links:

Online Farmers Market website

Thrive organization

One of the big advantages for us is that we can list the products that we have from week to week, with no obligation other than to deliver what we offer after it is sold. This relieves some of the effort in marketing and sales, allowing us to concentrate for now on getting the farm running smoothly. It seems like a perfect companion to a startup farm operation.

We are also very happy to support the efforts of Thrive in raising awareness of the food choices available today.

More feeders for the pigs

We added 2 additional pig feeders this week. Together the 4 of them should hold about 10 forty pound bags of organic feed. There is one additional feeder that holds 2 bags of organic whole grains. That plus some food scraps like apples, pears, etc. Should last a full week to ease the feeding schedule.

The pigs are all on free food. We have found that free food keeps them happy (never hungry) and adjusting the protein to fat to carb balance of the feed controls their diet. This is preferable to us over measuring the 'hot' feed and limiting their intake.

We also feel that the addition of whole organic grains improved their health, lessens food requirements (extra fiber) and aids in managing the manure as it degrades much quicker and more completely.

If we can get to once a week feeding plus occasional scraps.. That is so much easier.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Swiss chard harvest

With the threat of the first frost of the year tonight, we decided to pull in much of the swiss chard. There were quite a few large beautiful leaves that could be hurt by a frost. So tonight we washed and put it into freezer bags for later use.  The final result was 14 gallons of chard, packed into 2 gallon bags.

We prefer freezing raw leaves, after just a good soak and wash in cold water. canning requires a lot more effort, and it is less versatile when used.

tonight the workforce was just Kaelyn and myself. She did an excellent job of washing and sorting the leaves for me, especially considering she is only 5 years old! The best part is, we had a great daddy daughter evening while doing it!

Little Sprouts Basic Farm Rules

I am often asked how Little Sprouts Farm is different. To answer that here is a list of some of our basic farm rules that govern all that we do. They are in no particular order. Some of these are self-learned, some are from respected authors and mentors. All of these are important to our success as a sustainable farm. How we are different is that many of these (if not all) are contrary to standard factory farming practices. To define a common factory farm, done to government specs, just take the opposite of these rules.

1. If it smells bad, your not doing it right.

2. If children can not safely assist in activities, your not doing it right.

3. If it doesn't happen in nature, its not natural.

4. Every farm animal should be free to express its instincts and live with respect.

5. People deserve openness and transparency in all aspects, especially in their most basic need: food production.

6. If the soil doesn't improve from year to year in all aspects, your not doing it right.

7. Plants that don't reproduce true on their own, are not intended to be grown.

8. No man made chemical has ever improved on the natural methods, in the long run.

9. Success in nature exists only as a delicate balance between different species, not as single crops or animals.

10.  The secret to nature is balance, too much of any one thing is bad, it is the balance between many things, sometimes hundreds, that makes life successful.

11. Caring for the earth (animals, plants, and environment) is man's first God given responsibility (aside from multiplying).

12. Farming is about nutrition and people, not plants, animals and profits.

13. Never try to improve nor alter something you don't yet understand.

14. If it doesn't work year after year, it shouldn't be done today.

15. Insects, bacteria, and misc "bad things" are not the enemy. the enemy is the pre-existing conditions that cause the "bad things" to come. Removal of only the "bad things" leaves the conditions that nature tries hard to destroy in order protect itself.

16. It is wiser to work with nature (cycles, seasons, etc) than against it.

17. Farming properly is hard work, requires great insight and intelligence, creative thinking, intuition, and expertise. It is ok to make a decent living at it.

18. Sunlight, air, soil, and water are the ingredients of life. Each must be cared for and protected at all costs.

19. Intervention  usually leads to the need for more intervention. Only nature itself is self-sustaining.

20. Nutrition begins in the soil. It is impossible for food to be healthier than the soil it comes from.

21. Increasing yield does not increase nutrition, normally more yield means less nutrition per pound.

22. Large size is in itself one of the biggest mistakes of farming. Large operations are fundamentally different from small operations, and produce a totally different product.  We need more farms, not bigger ones.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Raised beds for the orchard

Well, another mistake on my part. It was necessary to plant the orchard trees higher than the surrounding soil so that it could drain year round in the location we chose. I had assumed that the grass would grow across the mounds of dirt and compost quickly. Unfortunately it wasn't quick enough! The turkeys started digging around the tree roots and before long three trees were fallen to the ground. They had scraped the entire mound off and left the roots exposed.

So we took the weekend to rebuild the orchard. I found some damaged 2x12 cedar and got a great price. This made excellent boxes, 3x3 feet. four screws in each corner and it is sturdy as can be!

Once finished, it does look better than before, and the trees are more protected. Hope this lasts!

Daddy's helper holding the box in place

Who is that hiding behind the tree?

The team hard at work

How's it going Daddy?

Sometimes you need extra help to hold the box still

Don't fall in!

That's putting your whole body into it!

Finished product, great job Fam!

Pig treat! Apples this time

We ran across a landowner with a few unused apple trees and they offered all the fallen and not fallen fruit to us. We gladly accepted! A few hours later we had gathered four 30 gallon trash cans full of apples plus a few pears. The pigs are having a feast!

For the next treat we plan on heading back to the unused pear orchard to collect a few hundred pounds more, and we are looking for a good supply of fallen acorns.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Life expectancy in America declining?

I ran across this article with fascinating findings. in essence, health care spending has increased dramatically in America and yet, life expectancy has declined. America is now 12th from the top in life expectancy.

Why bring this up in a farm blog? because nutrition is at the heart of life expectancy, and nutrition starts at the food producer, the farm. It is rooted in the soil, and the health of the soil. The bottom line is, the health of thesoil determines the health of the nation which claims it.

Besides America willingly destroying its soil and corrupting the methods of farming that produce nutritious food, our health care system has moved from prevention to cure. prevention, for the most part, has been abandoned in favor of creative ways to fix the problems.

Little sprouts farm is dedicated to stopping this trend, and moving America in the other direction, a return to prevention through nutritious food produced in healthful methods.

Here are the details. fascinating read!

Containing Turkeys - an idea

Long consideration of the problem with the turkeys has brought an idea to mind. The problem is that the turkeys have learned that its possible to fly over the electric fence without trouble. they now pass back and forth at will. being flock animals, as soon as one decides to jump fence, they all soon follow. i can chase them back and feed them in the coop, but as soon as they are done eating they fly right back to the sheep shelter to roost or to the orchard to roam.

What i noticed though is that they actually like the orchard now. amongst the young trees and sheep shelter they seem to feel safe and at home. In comparison, the coop is foreign to where they would roost in the wild. This got me to thinking about WHY they keep leaving the coop and WHY they stay in the orchard rather than in our yard as the previous flocks did.

The answer would seem to be found in their instincts. They don't roam in the open pasture in the heat of the day, and they only roam to cross it or to forage for food. otherwise they hang out under shelter of some sort, and prefer green grass. This mimics what a wild turkey would do.

So,,, it makes sense to stop trying to contain them by force, and instead contain them by making their area more appealing than any other. This would require building trees and shade. I say building because planting trees would be better but takes too long to get to the point that it would be useful. So building trees or something like trees seems best.

The home built trees could be placed along side the orchard so the birds could roam the orchard but be amongst the cover of their 'tree'. moving the coop nearby and surrounding it with electric fence again would keep the sheep out and provide a dry place to eat the poultry food we supplement with.

Now I just need some good designs for home built artificial trees :)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Weeds - Friend or Foe?

Weeds... those little nuisances that seem to grow like magic anywhere, faster than anything productive, more healthy, more prolific. They should be eradicated at all costs! Or should they?

Learning more and more about nature has begun to alter my views on .. weeds. Perhaps they are not the incessant evil I have always believed. Perhaps they actually serve a purpose. Perhaps... they are good for the earth.

Nature, left to itself, will always seek a balance over time. When there are hills and valleys, the rain and wind weathers the hills and fills in the valleys to seek a balance. When a forest becomes overgrown the storms send lightening to start fires and remove the excess brush and seek balance. There are dozens or hundreds of these situations in nature where one force offsets the other to re-establish balance across all. This is nature's way of sustaining itself, keeping the planet healthy. It has worked from the beginning of the earth, generation after generation. It is only recently when man started altering this balance, that the earth suffers (but that is another blog post)

What part could weeds possibly play in some sort of master plan for maintaining balance? Consider the nature of weeds. They grow faster with fewer nutrients and less water than "productive" plants. They are hardy, resistant to disease and blight. They are unattractive to most bugs. They only real fame they seem to have is their ability to live in the harshest of conditions.

A related point to consider here is that nature resists barren soil. Any piece of ground left to nature will soon be covered with growth of some sort. Tilling the ground does not leave it in a natural state, since tilled soil is rarely found in nature. Aside from recently man made chemicals that are capable of truly killing a plot of land irreparably, any open piece of land will spring to life by itself.

Put the two thoughts together and... weeds suddenly serve a very important purpose. Weeds are in fact natures instrument for restoring life. The ability to grow in the harshest conditions match perfectly nature's need to restore life where life can barely exist. without weeds, nothing could grow in the barren ground and it would lay barren and lifeless indefinitely since "productive plants" cant grow in the conditions of the soil.

Now lets take a step further and ask... what is actually happening here. If land is barren and lifeless, how does the growth of weeds  restore the ability of productive plants to prosper? I am no biologist nor chemist, but what I do know is that life expands life. Weeds as they grow conduct all the normal processes that plants use to turn sunlight into usable energy. In essence plant life is natures solar energy plant. The energy in sunlight is used to create plant life, which then eventually dies to create mulch and compost, which give life to bugs and bacteria and fungus that gives nutrient and life to the soil.  Weeds are in fact the first step in this chain of restoring the ability to support life into the soil itself.

Another interesting point is that it is possible to tell the nature of the soil condition by which weeds grow in it. each weed prospers in a particular soil condition. not only this, but when that plant subsequently dies, it gives back to the soil that very thing that it lacked which encouraged the type of weed that grew. what a beautiful  cycle!

I have noticed just in the last 3 years that the weeds in our garden are different each year. as the soil matures and gains health, the weed content encouraged changes to follow. this tells me that perhaps the weeds that are growing each year are exactly what is necessary to heal the ground! therefore, removing all weeds would prolong the healing process nature has in place, and although immediate gains might be seen, the long term health of the land suffers.

So there are benefits to weeds. They certainly produce organic material that builds the health of the soil. They provide cover from the harsh sun to make life more hospitable for the good bugs and worm and fungus. They provide shelter from the elements to new seedlings.  It would seem as though the weeds are actually a positive as long as they are kept in "balance".

One might say , as I have, that weeds take more from the soil than they produce. But is that really true? I read recently of an old experiment where a plant was grown in a protected tub of soil, and the soil was carefully weighed before, during, and after the plant's life.  After adjusting for water content, the weight of the plant was much greater than the loss of weight of the soil that produced it. Therefore the plant did not deplete the soil nearly as much as it created new energy to be redeposited in the soil as compost.  That is a fascinating thought... the plant CREATED more soil more then it consumed.  Now, I do not know if all plants have this ability, but I strongly suspect so.

 Hopefully I can research and experiment to prove this theory over time. Its difficult to accept the fact that weeds are a friend as much as a foe. I cant yet say that weeds should grow freely in a garden area, but at the same time, I can no longer say that weeds should be eradicated at all costs.

Stay tuned for the development of this theory.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Updated animal pics

I just added some pictures of our animals to the "our animals" page.  I'll try to be more diligent about keeping the pics up to date from now on.

Thanks to Crystal and Jared for the photography!

Turkeys win this one

So much for my turkey containment attempts! This is turning into quite the challenge.

Raising animals and plants properly has thus far turned out to be the single most challenging venture of my career. Far more complex than anything in computer sciences, marketing, managing people, artificial intelligence.. Etc. Farming done right requires intelligence, understanding, patience, intuition, and overall wisdom above any other profession I have been involved in!