Tuesday, November 10, 2009

class and chickens

I should be writing more about our Farm Beginnings class. We had our second class this past Saturday. We are learning a lot. Our homework for class #1 was to write a personal aim. Mine is: Mesh the farm rhythm and seasons into work, life and art. This is to be our daily goal - kind of like a daily affirmation. This past Saturday's class (#2) featured a lecture on biodynamics - wow, that is a lot to think about and definitely a motivating topic for future study. I confess all I knew about biodynamics was that a horn was buried. I didn't know that there are so many different preparations. I really liked it. I think it compliments my personal aim.

Then we visited a pastured based chicken farmer. They had these neato portable pens which are moved to fresh grass every day. They have ropes on the front and little lawn mower wheels on the back to allow them to move. They do cover these with tarps and face them appropriately with the sun and the wind so that the pens get the cross breezes. I also liked how they shorted the side so that they aren't as low to allow easier access to the birds without having to bend over so far into the corners. She raises cornish cross. It was interesting that she said that her customer base didn't want/like heritage breed.

This week's homework for class is writing a mission statement for our farm. We have also had exercises where we are drawing our farm (everything: house, growing beds, greenhouses, washing stations, coolers, housing for help, alternative energy) - it was a fun and thought provoking exercise. We have also been asked to think about finances. One worksheet had us actually qualify how much money we want/need to make at farming. That is a really hard thing to do. We settled on between $750-$1000/month. I'd love feedback on that number if anyone has any thoughts. It seems like not much - but like Bill said, if we were interested in the money we would just keep our current jobs and stay in the city.

All in all, we are greatly enjoying the class, hearing stories from real farmers and networking with other students.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Great article by Joel Salatin

I drink raw milk (sold illegally on the underground market)

Joel Salatin, "This industrial food experiment, historically speaking, is completely abnormal. It’s not normal to eat things you can’t spell or pronounce. It’s not normal to eat things you can’t make in your kitchen. Indeed, if everything in today’s science-based supermarket that was unavailable before 1900 were removed, hardly anything would be left. And as more people realize that this grand experiment in ingesting material totally foreign to our three-trillion-member internal community of intestinal microflora and -fauna is really biologically aberrant behavior, they are opting out of industrial fare. Indeed, to call it a food revolution is accurate."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Future Farm Patio Furniture

We found this Find at the El Junque store on Western Ave in Chicago. It is a guy that deals in cash only and buys from scrap trucks that cruise the alleyways of Chicago.

I've been wanting a two person glider for quite a while. Every time we drive past, we keep our eyes peeled for what is on the sidewalk. And one day there it was! Asking price $25. We ended up paying $18. It doesn't glide but Bill will fix that.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A week of reflection

Our first Farm Beginnings class was amazing. I feel more confident that we can do this than ever. I also feel justified in calling ourselves future farmers. Since Bill is also starting a small business (that we hope will help with income once we live in Chicago) we have decided that we are definitely partners in this farming venture - but it is my 'project' so to speak. While in class we did an interesting exercise in which we were forced to pick our top 10 from terms relating to Values. (Examples - just picking some randomly: Accomplishment, Achivement, Arts, Affection, Honesty, Financial Gain, Public Service, Trust, Money, Truth). Then we had to cull that list to 5. Then further to 3. My remaining 3 were: Independence, Meaningful Work and Nature. I think that is very interesting that they are about as far away from my day job in Corporate America as you can get - shows how unfulfilled I am right now. Anyway - we then use that exercise to write our Goals and Values and then turn that into a Objective for Business. This is the hard part of business planning that no one does. But wow, it is a useful exercise! I have been thinking, reworking, rewriting and reflecting on it all week. I am greatly looking forward to the next class.

And the best part of the class? Oh my gosh. Meeting the others that want to do what we want to do! Bill and I are often the ones that no one seems to understand. "you want to do what?" "You make your own bread?!" "You can just buy bread at the store." "You want to live in the country?" We were surrounded by like-minded folks. And there was every age group represented: young parents, some fresh out of college, father-daughter teams, pre-retirees and plenty of mid-lifers looking for a change (like us).

We took Friday off and spent the weekend in Wisconsin. Our accomplishments were pretty minor but fun.

Our insurance company is threatening to not renew our policy for the farm/church-house if we didn't put railings on the steps. We have made steps out of huge local boulders (3 to 4' in length) - many stacked on top of another. Bill wasn't wild about the idea of taking away the beauty of his natural steps - but you gotta do what 'da insurance man' say.

He stopped at one of the many architectural salvage stores around our neighborhood in Chicago. He found some cool victorian iron scroll work but gheesh, it was over $400. No way.

So we drove up on Thurs night without much of a plan but we did have a bunch of tools. He kept saying - we'll just go over to the farm in the morning and I'll poke around the junkpile. (Every farm has a junk pile, right?)

Friday morning at the farm junk pile, he pulled out two rusty large farm fence posts that were all bent up. He also found two cedar branches. He fashioned a lovely railing out of these found objects for FREE! The man is destined to live on a farm.

I also learned to chop wood. Yes, with a splitting maul. I definitely do NOT have hang of it yet, but I did OK. It wasn't pretty and I was incredibly slow, but I got some wood (box elder, certainly not oak or elm) split. I will work to increase my confidence in my swing as the winter progresses. This will be our last year buying wood. We just haven't had the time on the weekends to fell, split, season, haul and stack wood while trying to fix up multiple places - especially when we can get a large load from the neighbor for $75 (and he has lots of wood and needs the money).

I am roasting a local acorn squash, wedge fries out of potatoes from my garden and a large green salad from the greens of the last Platteville Farmer's Market. Hello Fall!