Friday, April 30, 2010

Saturday - worm farm visit

On Saturday morning, we finished the grading in front of the barn entrance. It turned out to be mostly gravel under the soil, so I added some compost to the area where I want to put Hollyhocks. I also planted some chive transplants. I love chives for their early greenery and their buds/flowers. Oh, and I like to eat them too.

During the afternoon, we drove to Richland Center to visit a worm farm. We met the Urban Worm Girls there and visited their current worm supplier. We learned a lot and met a really nice worm farmer too.

This farmer raises his worms in manure from the farm, which I was glad to learn. (We ran into a worm farmer at MOSES who raised his worms in peat; that is just plain wrong in my opinion. Using a non-renewable resource to raise worms - after all, worms eat just about anything!) Anyway, on this farm, long manure beds in a machine shed are filled with worms. During the winter, they will cover additional manure and compost and during especially cold stretches, cover with a tarp, but otherwise the worms are in the open machine shed.

This was their worm separator. This is a repurposed seed cleaner.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday recap

We were able to spend most of Friday working at the farm.

Bill finished the barn retaining wall framing.

We are going to straighten out the wall of the milk house entrance to the barn. It is metal and has been bent several times over the years. We also decided to scrape down the grade of the soil at the entrance - it is too high and in heavy rains the water (and soil) flow back into the barn. This photo shows Bill scraping the soil and also the terrible condition of the wall.

I took down a small wall in the entry way of the barn. It widened the doorway and cleaned it up a bit.

Late afternoon we met our farm mentor at his farm. We were totally impressed by his operation and learned a lot just by walking around and speaking to him.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

We saw the meteor!

I forgot to mention that we saw the meteor over Wisconsin last week.

We arrived at our place (remember, it is an old church that we've turned into a home) on Wed at about 8:30 pm. It was fairly warm that day - the evening was still fairly nice so we were enjoying a Spotted Cow (it's a Wisconsin beer) on the front steps. We were facing east. At about 10 pm, a weird light started emanating from the west and seemed to be getting brighter and closer. However, we have a neighbor that has one of those annoyingly bright flood lights, so at first we thought they had turned the light on. However, the light grew brighter and brighter - until it was like daytime. Then we saw the meteor - it came into our view, the tall church building had been blocking the view - it streaked across the sky and then dissipated. Several seconds later, we heard the sonic boom. It didn't sound like the sonic booms that I've heard in the past from the Chicago Air Show (another post, but I hate the Air Show - I think it is a government sponsored commercial for war). Anyway, this sonic boom sounded different. We didn't know what it was that had happened, but I said to Bill, let's go inside, I'm a little freaked out.

We did and went to sleep. Found out the next day from NPR that it had been a meteor.

I feel privileged to have seen it. After all, what are the chances that we will be in Wisconsin on a Wednesday evening in April and that it will be warm enough to be outside enjoying a cold beverage? Frankly, pretty slim.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Thurs recap

Whew, it was a whirlwind weekend!

Here is the recap of Thursday.

We met with the NRCS conservation agent first thing on Thursday morning. Bill had the idea and forethought that we send him the sketch we did several weeks ago outlining our plans for the 20 acres.

On the drawing (on a large survey that Bill has recreated from the survey in CAD), it shows:

  • New shop (for ReAdapted)
  • potential hoophouse(s) site
  • Two (2) approximately 4 acres (each) rotation grazing
  • Permaculture based orchard and forest crops
  • Reforestation of small wood lot
  • Riparian zone along our seasonal creek
  • Market growing production areas ~4-5 acres

The first thing he said to us - well, you have a lot of plans. I think he truly thought we were crazy.

He didn't know much about permaculture or organic growing. He did give us some good ideas on erosion and our invasives problems. Overall, though - I think Bill and I probably knew about as much as he did. It was nice to walk the ground with him and have someone to bounce our ideas off of. I did also ask him how many people in Grant County applied for the hoophouse program through NRCS - he said 6. I asked how many were funded and he said zero. Disappointing.

We spent the rest of Thursday getting the tractor running - Bill changed the oil, did some priming on some rust spots and generally greased and oiled it up. I finished cleaning out the garbage and the recyclable metal from the bottom of the barn (yes, that is still going on!).

You can see in this photo that all of the floors are swept free of debris. The area is now ready for construction.

Each stall has a trough in the floor that was filled with manure, soil and sometimes garbage. I shoveled out each one and dumped the non-garbage material in the feedlot. Garbage went into the garbage pile. The trough will give Bill a surface to build buttresses against.

Bill started the framing for the re-pouring of concrete buttresses where the stone foundation is failing. We must do this to ensure proper footing for the barn before we jack up the barn and rebuild/reinforce the beams in the upper barn that are rotting and/or broken. The photo below shows the initial beam.

This photo shows the beam and the buttress that is using the concrete trough for added strength. These will hold the wall in from further pushing out, give stability to allow us to chip out the limestone foundation that is failing so that we can eventually pour some concrete buttresses to reinforce the wall.

And for supper? Nettle pesto. Nettles harvested straight off of our farm and eaten that night. It was our first time eating nettles and it was delicious!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Finally... back to Wisc

We haven't been to Wisconsin since the end of February. There was still snow on the ground when we were there last!

To say that we are desperate to go, is an understatement. We are leaving tonight.

We meet with an NRCS agent tomorrow morning to walk our farm. We have many concerns that we would like their guidance on: namely our invasives and our water/erosion issues. Several weeks ago, Bill and I sat down with colored pencils and a huge survey of our 20 acres. We plotted out lots of things: new shop location, two pasture areas, orchard, growing fields, new access roads, beehives, woodland revitalization (using permaculture). We sent a copy to the NRCS agent in advance so he could get an idea of what we want to do.

We will spend the rest of Thurs working on the farm. Bill hopes to get the tractor running and I am going to start disassembling the house (pulling down beadboard paneling for re-use, removing cabinets to save for the workshop, before starting demo).

We are also meeting with our farm mentor on Friday to work out the schedule for our mentorship. We are greatly looking forward to talking with him again and seeing his farm. We met him briefly at the MOSES conference.

And on Saturday, we are visiting a worm farm. The Urban Worm Girl worm supplier is not far from us - we are visiting his farm to see his operation.

There's more...

On Monday, we are traveling to Manteno for the 1st CRAFT field day of the season. The topic is hoophouses and it is a work day so we are going to put up a hoophouse. I am so glad Bill is going too - he has lots of experience bending conduit for running electric wires (Chicago city code; wiring must be in a pipe) so I know he will pick this up in no time flat.

I am greatly looking forward to this farm-filled weekend!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Chicken Processing in Chicago

I wonder why I've never thought to question or look for processors in Chicago? There is a major backyard chicken movement in Chicago (yes, it is legal).

See the Chicken Slaughter in Chicago post on the AOLC blog.

Bill and I have talked about urban backyard hens. However, we anticipate being in Wisconsin so much this year that we think it would be too difficult to care for them properly. I will just have to wait for my 'hen-fix' until we move to Wisc.

Sorry, I've been absent. We've been spending almost every free moment on the remodel project on our empty rental unit. The drywall it up! We installed a couple of new windows yesterday. I plan to refinish the floors in a couple of weeks. We are putting it back together and that feels great!