Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Planning for the fall

Its hard to mention and in fact, I could lose my loyal readers, but the sad fact is that fall is coming.

While we applauded the coming of spring at its beginning (remember March - wasn't that terrific), signs are all around us that the seasons are in transition.

I know, I heard today's forecast and believe me, after fencing the past week, I know all about the heat, mosquitoes and other forest hazards.

Call it a hunch, a farmer's intuition or perhaps I'm just a little loony. I just feel that Mother Nature will have quite hot and then BOOM!, it will really cool down.

This will be of great relief to the cows. They can tolerate the heat, but only for so long. Moving them into a new paddock is critical for the fact that shade needs to exist. Sometimes I can get lucky and shade is in the paddock and sometimes they need to stay together.

The flies have been an issue. One of my purchases for next year will be humane fly traps that I hope will alleviate some of the discomfort for the cattle. I would pursue this now, but funding is being devoted to the house.

One of the plans for the fall will be the planting of winter wheat on top of ground that's been eroded due to the constant planting of corn (3+ years in a row). We'll speak more to that later.

For now, its off to chores, phone calls and oh yeah, fencing.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

What is means to be a good steward

Such a heavy topic for 4:45 in the morning, but here it goes.

Being a good steward means being true to your surroundings. After our recent 6+ inches of rain, one would think that mass erosion and other land removal would certainly have taken place. Quite the contrary.

Our method of farming (mob grazing) allows for the cattle to be in one area of the pasture at one time. So while water descended from the neighbors farm and rushed through the pasture yesterday, minimal damage was experienced. Had we done things the way we used to do it, it might be a different picture.

Being a good steward is a recognition that we are only here for a brief time. Frankly ours in but a vapor and to think that we can do whatever we want, wherever we want is irresponsible. To build the soil, raise a variety of grasses, to raise cattle on a low input, sustainable system is not just a noble goal, but should be mandated.

How and why farmers plant where they do here in the Driftless Region is beyond me. I've paid for ditches to be filled in year after year and beginning next year, all that will end. Soil doesn't "grow" but is created over time. As I get older, the soil in my hands and in how I treat it will be my legacy.

I could expound on these points, but this is my stance on stewardship. It may waver with different dialogue, but for the most part, its how I feel.

Have a great Sunday. A day of rest before I tackle some hay on Monday and yet another busy week at Mountain Lane.

Friday, July 23, 2010



It is welcomed at nearly every juncture of the growing season. We have been blessed to have such copious amounts, but as I get ready to head to the paddocks, we're pushing the envelope. Since yesterday, we've seen over 3 inches of rain. Now, I'm not complaining. Its just that it presents some challenges. The paddocks are muddy. It gets hard to put in paddocks, take them out as well as work on weeds.

We also had tremendous amounts two weeks ago and one paddock in particular was relegated to muddy highway 101. Since then grasses, alfalfa and some clover have appeared back in that paddock. In fact, in another week, you won't even know the cattle were there. The mob grazing has been good for the cattle, although having a scale will give me a better idea how the stockers are performing on a daily gain basis. I'm looking to apply for a grant to cover the cost.

The sorghum sudangrass is ready to go, but the rain pushes harvest back a bit. I anticipate a great deal of forage for the winter from this crop.

After paddock work, it looks like indoor work will be the call for the day. Fencing, hay and other things will need to wait until we see three days of dry weather.

All in the life of the farm. Perhaps I migrate to La Farge for the Kickapoo Valley Fair as well. TGIF!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Plans for the week

As the clock turns toward 6 AM, my main objective this week is fencing. Its not a job that I fancy or look forward to, but in order to maintain the cattle and to appease the neighbors, this must be done.

My first project is the largest. It accompanies replacing a line that was built close to fifty years ago. Once I've finished that then I will try to get to three other lines as well.

Off to work!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Its all about the network

I'm very fortunate to be amidst people who are as passionate and in many cases more so about local food.

Take for example Rich. Rich is a life-long farmer who I have had the fortune of working for and with in the new Wisconsin Grass-Fed Beef Cooperative. Rich has been gracious enough to offer some timely advice to me. He's never asked for anything in return, just good cattle when he calls.

I was fortunate to have visited with Rich on Sunday because he calls me yesterday and within four hours needed cattle. Had we not had our conversation on Sunday, the coop, Rich and I would have lost out on a golden opportunity.

I'm coming to learn each day that when you surround yourself with good people, good things are bound to happen.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

How much will that paddock take?

This is an easy question to address since I have my cattle next to road for all the world to see. With the amount of rain (no rain gauge up due to construction) we've received on Sunday and Monday, the paddock I planned to release the cows from this morning was looking pretty muddy by last night.

I released the cows early, but to tell you the truth the ground looked stable. The only place that gets a little worn is right along the paddock line. There must be some cattle whose only job is to create a worn path right along a fence line.

So back to the neighbors, many may think that the paddock is for all intensive purposes is now a wasteland. On the outside that may be true, but in the reality all of the hoof podding is tremendous for the ground. The animal waste combined with rain water forces nutrients directly into the ground. I could never apply man made fertilizer as well as the cattle do for me.

In fact, by this time next week, you wouldn't be able to tell that the cattle were there. In 2 months, when we make our final rotation for the year, you wouldn't even know that the cattle were ever there during the entire grazing season. Let the cattle work for you and you would be amazed and what they can do.

Chances of rain today which means more under the roof jobs which is alright since I've found an old list that has plenty for me to do today.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Much Needed Rain

Contrary to popular belief, rain is a good thing.

As I awoke from rainy 4th, I was greeted to a strong but brief shower. There's nothing that makes me feel better than a soaking rain. The paddocks recuperate quicker, the cattle are cooler and the third crop will come back even sooner. It won't be long before third crop will be upon us.

My dad was inducted into the Eastman Softball Hall of Fame. It was a great moment for him and our family. He gave much to the game before he married my mother and then devoted his attention to our farm and family.

Today will be a day to catch up on a great day of paperwork. More tomorrow after I catch up on some overdue reading.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Freedom never comes for free...

Happy Birthday America!

Today as you look from Nome, Alaska to the Everglades, your beautiful land has once again been challenged.

Challenged by an economy that experts build on speculation and not reality.

Tested by environmental disasters that are so incomprehensible, that to see billions and perhaps trillions of gallons of oil on your southern shores must make you weary.

There are men and women too, some active and some that served to protect you. We know how you feel about them, but what about us, your sons and daughters? Yesterday at the market I met a Vietnam Vet and thank him for his service and in protecting my liberties.

He said that he very seldom if ever is thanked and that when he did come home we greeted with spit.

I suspect that's how we are treating you too America!

Today let's make a new resolution to put Old Glory up on our homes, to thank Almighty God for all of the liberties we have and that barring any major disaster, we will have another full calendar year full of many more.

In closing, I take my dusty old hat to those who gave everything for me. They, like the Lord, are with him and will be with us today.

Happy Birthday America!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

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It's a term that defines terms which we usually are prescribed to.

But why?

I'm all for cooperation, good will and for teamwork, but realistically, I can only go so far. Today I would have conformed to standards that were far below my expectations. My wife said that I burned a bridge, but in reality what I did was expose what on the outside looks innovative, when in reality it is the same conforming construct.

I refuse to be placed entirely in line, in a box or other situation. Many farmers work too hard and receive very little. I believe that with education, transparency and passion, farmers can once again be in control of their situation. The page then, the story of thousands of men and women who raise animals or crops need not be relegated to a number, but instead, a story.

I plan not to leave my page intentionally blank. What's your story.