Sunday, September 23, 2012

Small Farm Conference

I had a chance to get some time for myself so my sister, Mary, and I attended the Small Farm Conference in Tony, WI at the Flambeau School.  What a lovely area!  The school looks like a big red barn and you can tell from the school's condition and its various grounds that the community supports education.  If I wanted to move to a rural area, I would check this town out. 

The keynote speaker at the conference was the great John Ikerd.  I have been a fan of Professor Ikerd's writings for years.  I even took my May/June 2002 copy of Small Farm Today magazine that published the professor's essay on The Three Economies of Agriculture and asked him to sign it.  (He graciously did and that put me in 7th heaven.) He gave a wonderful, uplifting speech about the future of agriculture in this time of world transformation.  It sure made me feel good about my choice to be a farmer.  I have been very interested in the possibility of a sustainable economy after I read the Mother Jones magazine special edition from April 1997 that they called natural CAPITALISM

There were a couple of informational "classes" about different subjects that you could choose to attend, and then there was the choice to visit either two different vegetable market farms or two different livestock farms.  As much as I wanted to visit the grass fed beef and sheep farms, I decided that the vegetable market farms were more practical for me to attend so I chose that tour.  (Mary did go to the livestock tour.) It's always nice to see what other people are doing and I get good ideas, too.  About the only similarity between the small farms I visited and my operation, is that we all use raised beds, greenhouse/high/low tunnels, grow vegetables and small fruits, and sell our produce at farmers markets.  I have yet to find someone who raises heirloom vegetables for sale and seed, and who grows medicinal herbs.  One of the farms did raise chickens -- and she had some handsome roosters, too -- as I do, but she keeps her chickens in a large pen and treats them more like pets.  It's a nice large area for them to run in, but I kind of like letting mine roam the woods, and I mean my chickens to be "working gals" -- give me the eggs or go into the pot.  I bought a jar of Fiesta Pepper Jam from Fresh to You Farm that is simply to die for it tastes so good.  I should have bought two jars.

The wonderful thing about Rich Tobe, the new Rusk County Agriculture Agent, is that he is creating programs for micro-farming operations -- people who are starting farming from scratch with little or no previous farming experience.  This is something that has been sorely needed and it's wonderful that Rich has his finger on the farming transition pulse.  These new farmers are more open-minded and likely to share their experiences with other new farmers. This important attitude ties right in with John Ikerd's idea of people's moral and ethical concensus being necessary to develop the ecological economy, the third leg of John's three economies of agriculture. It was a great day and I can't wait to go to the next Small Farm Conference!

Looking Around

I had a chance to drive along the River Road that runs along the Flambeau River in  Park Falls and thought I'd take some pictures for you.

I just love this old log house and stone corn crib. I wonder when they were built; I know they are very old.  I've been told that in the pioneer days of Wisconsin,  Bohemian immigrants were considered very good stone masons because while they didn't have much wood in the old country, there were plenty of stones to work with.  I don't know if that is true, but it's what I've been told.  Now every time I see some old stone building I wonder if it was built by some old Bohemian. I've seen many remnants of forgotten farms where all that remains are a solid stone foundation, a chimney, corn crib, or perhaps an old bridge's footings sticking up out of the grass to bear witness to the presence of life in a time long past.

I want one of these!  This one looks like it sends water from the well to a cow barn. Wonder how deep that well is.

Almost home when you see these signs:

(We actually live in the town of Mercer but our mail comes out of Butternut).

Steely gray clouds are dropping rain here and there.  I caught this pretty site while watching it rain to the east of us.

Have a wonderful day!

Last Days of Summer

Honestly, I just don't know where the time goes.  I can hardly believe we are in the latter part of September already.

My version of Buffalo Bird Woman's garden yielded mixed results:

The Jerusalem Artichokes row (rear in photo) are tall and lush, and the allium row in front of them where I had the onions, Egyptian Walking onions, and Musselburg leeks did well despite the heat, but most everything else was a bust.  I did manage to harvest enough sunflower heads to get next year's seed, and for some reason, it was a great year for Blue Hubbard squash and New England Pie Pumpkins.  Otherwise, nothing grew but weeds.  I liked growing the squashes on the inside perimeter because they did (for the most part) keep the deer out.  The critters seemed to be content munching on sunflowers and whatever grew on vines that ran outside of the garden area.  In the potato patch where I grew the Red Cloud potatoes, I managed to harvest enough small potatoes to use for next year's seed.  Those are such good potatoes that I am confident I'll be able to keep them through the winter.  But there will be only store bought potatoes to eat this winter.  Ugh! Anyway, I picked the squashes and pumpkins, and  I am satisfied with that much of a harvest.

We had company!  Lara's friend, Carrie, and her parents (Pat and Mel) came to visit.  We had a great time.   Lara and Carried had a lot of fun together.

 Pat helped me bring some pumpkins and squashes and the girls to the farmers market in Park Falls.  We gave Carrie her own sunflower farmers market apron so she matched with Lara.  It rained quite a bit, but we managed a few sales.  We even had a few people that knew what the Blue Hubbards were -- that made me happy!

We had an early morning phone call on the day that Carrie was to leave to go back to Illinois.  She went with me to the Post Office in Butternut and then very carefully held the box the Postmaster gave us while we drove back to the house.   Carrie was very excited and couldn't wait to open that noisy little box . . .

Yep.  They came.

And after everyone had enough of holding baby Dominiques, we put them in the brooder with food and water and heat lamps to keep them warm.  I lost two of them to chilling before I got the lamps adjusted correctly, but they are doing just fine now.

Until next time, Blessings Be to you all!