Empty Shelves and Farm Economics

My mom sent me pictures of the meat cases at her nearby grocery store. Many shelves were sparsely filled, while others were completely bare. We seem to be facing wave after wave of disruptions in our commodity markets, and there’s little sign of these oscillations damping any time soon. Now, I’m not here to whip up a frenzy about scarcity. You don’t need to panic buy. Our farm is well-stocked, and as I trend things out, I don’t foresee any danger of food shortages at WDF. But it provides a good opportunity… Read More

Plans Built on Grass

Everything I plan is stacked on layers of utterly unpredictable events and utterly uncontrollable forces. And yet I find that the more planning I do, the better prepared I am for the year. Winter is time for farm planning. This year, I keep returning to Eisenhower’s wartime aphorism: “I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” I suspect the principal benefit from these planning activities comes from immersing myself in possible failures. Forecasting allows me to become acquainted with some, although not all, of the ways my plans… Read More

Farm Goals for 2022

Enjoying the quiescence of our winter schedule, Rachel and I have been using this time to make plans for Wrong Direction Farm for the new year. Whenever I do my listmaking, I invariably fill the sheet with all sorts of unachievable goals. Farming is nothing, if not a good way to reinforce feelings of inadequacy for the challenges at hand. I know all the life coaching types tell people to make sure their goals are reasonable, but that’s just not my style. I prefer audacious lists. My complete goals list is long, specific,… Read More

Installing Fence Posts on the Farm

Our high tensile fences in the pastures are strung on wooden fence posts, each sunk four feet deep. Over the years we’ve slowly added permanent fences throughout the farm. We’re inching our way to the finish line, this year adding posts in some of the back pastures. Here’s a video showing the equipment we use for installing our fence posts. I’ve dug plenty of fence posts by hand, and I’ve used post hole augers. But both methods are slow. And with all the boulders in our soil, this is frustrating work. So… Read More

Customizing the Tractor Loader: Video

Sometimes the farm life isn’t all pastures and soil. It often involves fixing the farm equipment. We only have one tractor, so we’re not as caught up in engines and wrenches as a more mechanized farm, but we still manage to spend a lot of time with the tools spread out in the driveway. We had a problem with the tractor’s quick attach bracket, the connector that allows us to switch between a bucket, a forklift, or a hay bale spear attachment. Instead of continuing to repair the poorly-designed original equipment as… Read More

The Prodigal Steer

In the middle of October we bought five yearling Angus-Devon cross cattle – two steers and three heifers.  They were sold at auction for a retiring farmer.  We’ve met the farmer and we know that his cattle program is well aligned with ours.  As a plus the Devons are from the same line as our bull so they are consistently bred toward a thick bodied, easy finishing, rugged phenotype. We could write a few pages on the fiasco that ensued the morning after the cattle arrived, when a steer broke fences and led… Read More

Cattle Proof Water Trough

Update Jan 2016:  We moved the trough and made some plumbing improvements in this follow-up post. Last week we set up a new water trough for the cattle in the area where they’ll be bale grazing this winter.  We started building drinking troughs out of heavy equipment tires two years ago.  Tire tanks are heavy enough to stand up to charging cattle and rooting hogs.  In winter they do freeze, but with the combination of the heat absorption of the black rubber and the insulation provided by their thick sides, they resist freezing… Read More

3rd Annual Pig Roast

Each summer since 2012, we have invited Dave’s family up for a pig roast.  All but the the aged, pregnant, infant or wimpy camp out.  The eight cousins all 9 and younger enjoy getting filthy, shooting arrows and guns and eating all the desserts Grandmom brings. The adults get hungrier and hungrier as the pig roasts. Dave did a great job bringing the pig to a perfect golden brown with crispy skin.                              

Early Spring

Spring is here, and we are all happy to be outside more.  Everything seems to be about preparation this week.  Preparing to send the animals out to pasture, preparing the garden for early crops, gathering the needed fencing and feed and equipment. Our ducks got held up in the mail again and only five were living when they arrived. Allie is their caregiver this year, and she is diligently keeping the last two alive.  We put our two older groups of cattle together without any excitement, and we have been keeping our… Read More

Measuring Up

To determine if a pig is ready for slaughter or to gain an idea of how quickly it is growing, we need to know its weight. The thought of wrestling a pig onto a scale or somehow scooping it up in a sling is humorous, but the method we use is simple. We take its girth and length measurements with a fabric tape.  Using these calculations, we can find out about how much the pig weighs. Dave measures and I record. Recently I took my camera out with me for the amusing… Read More