Our New 1955 Chevy

by on April 30, 2010
in Farm Equipment

"Winky" the 1955 Chevy

Well, we’ve done it now. We bought the coolest truck EVER from George Gisler last night down in Stayton, Oregon. We were introduced to George by Orval Silbernager of Stayton, Oregon from whom we bought a fantastic old manure spreader. Orval raises beautiful sheep (which he does sell, so if anyone out there is looking for high-quality lamb drop me a line and I’ll put you in touch with him!) up on the edge of the Cascades. I think he has the most beautiful farm spot I have ever seen in my entire life. William told him “This place is so beautiful I’m afraid I wouldn’t get any farming done, I’d just stand around looking at the scenery all day!” I know that I enthuse about a lot of things, and so my appreciation might seem watered down, but really, I mean REALLY, this place was phenomenal. His farm runs right up to the edge of a huge bluff and then drops down a hillside that he uses goats to mow (it’s like looking down the edge of the Alps, I had to keep hollering at my own kids “Don’t fall, you won’t quit rolling till you reach the river!”) The valley he looks out on is dotted with small farms and towns, and since it was just a little rainy while we were there the clouds were dripping down over the edge of the mountains, tangling themselves up with the tree-tops in gorgeous swirls. Amazing.

But back to George. Orval called up George when he heard we were looking for an easier way to move feed around than our little trailer. It’s important to point out right here that talking with a farmer is one of the most delightful events. They actually listen to what you are saying because they are not in a big hurry to move on to the next sale, or the next job, or the next whatever. We just visited about this, that and the other until finally he told William “Well, I have a neighbor up here who is selling an old truck that might work for what you need. Let me go call him and if he’s home we can go see his truck.” The next few minutes were the perfect example of why agriculture is at the heart of a good society. Here ‘s what he did: Orval dialed up George and for the first few minutes of the phone call he didn’t say anything about his truck, he asked him how he was feeling, he asked how things were going on the farm, he asked about his family, he asked if there was anything he could do to help him out. He was a good neighbor, how many of those are left? He really cared about his neighbor’s welfare and was willing to take some of his own time (which believe me is a precious commodity when you are a farmer) to help him out if he needed it. I love farmers.

A true farm truck...see the baling wire holding it together?

Apparently George was doing well so Orval told him he had someone here who needed a way to move feed and other supplies, and asked if we could come see the truck he’d been thinking of selling. He agreed and we followed Orval down some more beautiful back roads out to George’s place. This is another thing I love; Orval didn’t just give us directions and send us on our way, he stopped what he was doing, and really helped, how many people do that anymore? It’s probably a really good thing he did too, or we might have gotten lost. So we pulled up to this lovely farm that looked out over the Willamette Valley and there, parked in one of the farm sheds was a 1955 Chevrolet truck. “Beastie” is the best descriptor I can think of, the thing was humongous! George and his brother had bought it used way back in 1959 from a woman who hauled hay with it. His brother wanted to haul lime (for fertilizing) in it so they took off the original bed and added a hydraulic system and the wooden bed of an old Garbage Truck that came out of Portland in the 1950’s. They had driven all over the Willamette Valley with it. He got in and showed William the knobs and how they worked. It was the coolest thing I’d ever seen in a vehicle, it had controls like a tractor and only two wires in the whole block, and I’m not even sure what they went to! And the best part? It actually runs! He started it up with a roar, then it quieted down to a nice rumble. We’re going to bring it home on Monday. We’ve got an 80 year old manure spreader now, and a 1955 Chevy. Man, life is just so sweet.

Catching Chickens

by on April 28, 2010
in Poultry

I spent last night catching chickens in Portland. I am continually amazed at the number of backyard chickens up here, it’s fantastic! I bought 10 layers from a family that just has too many, so I’m up to over 50 chickens now, over two dozen actually laying. What an adventure it has been to traverse this whole area, meet urban farmers, visit their city homesteads, and come away with some feathered treasures. I think we’ve finally got it down to a science. We get them at night, after they have already gone to roost (thank you Allegra for the tip!) and it makes it so much easier. Although my children have had fun chasing down chickens during the day. I finally got home about 10:30 at night and into bed after 11:00. Of course I had to check emails and then made the mistake of looking at Craigslist one more time before I nodded off. I thought William was asleep, but from the depths of where he was burrowed in the blanket I heard “See if there are any rabbits for sale”. Well that did it, we were up looking at rabbits for another hour. Apparently he’s got a hutch all ready for them so we’ll have those too.

The Cosmic Chicken and Zen and the Art of Bicycle Riding

It was a big day for Ephraim yesterday, he ran the gamut from contemplating the cosmos to catching chickens right along side me with the accomplishment of a long-held personal goal thrown in. We were making breakfast yesterday morning when the girls came running in with eggs they had found in the hen house. I was looking at them and said just off the top of my head “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” Zeke just looked at me and cocked his eyebrow the way he does, but Eph questioningly said “Huh?” So I replied “You know the age old question: Which came first the chicken or the egg? God created us, who created God? It’s a never ending cycle.” His face puckered up (he does that when he’s thinking hard) and he finally said “You mean there is no beginning and no end? It just is?” To which I replied “Yes” He thought about it for a second then put his hands on his forehead and said in true Ephy style “Oh man, that just makes my head hurt.” I love my kids, they sure know how to make me laugh!

Ephraim also learned to ride a bike yesterday. I know that doesn’t seem very earth shattering, but here at Real Food Farming it was a BIG deal. That kid has been working at it for months, literally, and finally yesterday that boy really flew. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so proud of himself. Ezekiel has yet to master it, I asked him why he doesn’t want to ride a bike when he’s so good on a horse and he just said “I don’t want to ride on anything that doesn’t have a brain.” I guess it’s a good reason.

The chickens are all on pasture now, and we are continuing to get ready for their June finish date. We are looking forward to visiting Afton Field Farm this Friday afternoon. They follow Joel Salatin’s methods as well and they have a great blog if you are interested in seeing their farm. Visit www.aftonfieldfarm.com and click on the blog link. It makes my heart happy to see a successful small family farm, we need lots more of them.

We are going to buy a manure spreader today (see the entry for April 22) and I’m feeling very nostalgic. Maybe we can get it running and I can plan a date night with William to try it out!

Laying Hens Are Here

by on April 24, 2010
in Poultry

Oh how exciting! We brought home 31 laying hens yesterday from a cute little homestead. The four E’s (that’s Ezekiel, Ephraim, Enoch, and Esther) went with me and had a marvelous time catching them and crating them for transport. While we were gone William built the chicken version of Buckingham Palace out in the barn. There’s a three level nest box with 18 laying spaces, walkways, ladders, a roost, and lots of space for our pretty birds. They adjusted well, and our one lone rooster in the henhouse was gleefully crowing by yesterday evening while the biddies pecked around and laid claim to their own spot. I absolutely can’t wait to gather fresh eggs! Marilla and Amie are going to have fun taking turns with the egg basket as well, in fact I think I need to find a good wicker egg basket…hmm…it looks like I’ll be antiquing a little bit today! I’m going to see how many eggs we get over the next few days and then I’ll be adding the pasture raised eggs to our purchasing options.

Happy 15th Anniversary

by on April 22, 2010
in Farm Life

It’s our (William and Vernie’s) 15th Anniversary today! And we have been farming the whole time, in fact I’ll have to relate to you the story of our 1st Anniversary…

April 22, 1996
William and I were living in a tiny (and I mean REALLY TINY! It made an apartment look humongous!) rental house just up the road from the DeMille Family Farm in Allendale, MO. We were raising milk goats, chickens, turkeys, lots of veggies, and hay which we mowed, raked, and hauled loose with three HUGE draft horses named Jim, John, and Gray. We did all our farming with horses back then and we loved it. William would hitch up the team to the plow and work for as long as they all were able, then he’d bring them in, hose them down and brush them off and send them out to pasture. I love draft animals, ours had the most wonderful temperment. William could stand in the barn, call them up to him and it didn’t matter how far away they were they would come running up to him. I loved to stand next to him when he’d call, draft horses don’t just move when they come running, they move the Earth. They would get halfway up the field and we’d feel the ground start to shake underneath us. They would run right up to us, William loved them and they loved him right back, they never shied away from him or refused to come. He called and they always came. Man, I miss those horses. He plowed, disced, harrowed, planted, mowed, raked, and hauled with those big boys. They were a true team.

The beautiful thing about farming with horses is the amazing amount of organic fertilizer you get as a by-product. We shoveled more horse manure in our years on that farm than most people ever imagine seeing. Draft horses eat a lot, and therefore are top-notch manure makers. William’s family had an old John Deere pull-type manure spreader that they had been using on their farm in Hurricane, Utah for years. We would fill that thing up to the brim with the good stuff and William and the team would drive it out to the fields. Most often we would put the manure directly on the pasture or on fields that were being fallowed for future crop production. I loved to watch, it was just so funny! William would pull up so that the back of the manure spreader was at the edge of the field, shift the gear on the wagon, snap the lines for Jim and John and they’d take off at a fast trot. Wow, you should have a chance at least once in your life to see that recycled grass fly! It would shoot out in an arc twenty feet high and twenty feet out to the sides, just flipping and flying all over the place. It’s definitely something you want to watch from a distance. William told me that he and his brothers were hauling manure home from their field in Hurricane through the middle of town right after doing their early morning chores and one of them accidentally switched the spreader on. They claim they didn’t realize it was on until they got home and saw the spreader was empty. They went back down to main street and saw that it was covered with manure, right up to the front doors of several homes and businesses. I really wonder at the “accidental” part of this, three teenage boys, a wagon full of horse poo, and a dark and sleepy city street…riiight.

So there we were on April 22 1996, our first anniversary, still existing in that first blush of marital bliss. We didn’t enjoy anyone’s company as much as our own, and had everything we needed to survive wrapped up in each other. We did our chores, I made a special meal and William said “Hey, I know what we can do.” I was thinking, “Oh wow, maybe we’ll do something really out of the ordinary, like go see a movie, or go out to eat.” But no. He said “Let’s go haul manure!” I think I said something along the lines of “You’re kidding, right?” Nope, he wasn’t kidding. It’s William, he hardly ever kids. So we hauled manure until evening, holding hands while the poo flew. It was actually, though you might not believe me, fun…ahh, young love.