Northern Farmer

An old fashion Christian farm family living in Minnesota, raising beef cattle, chickens, hogs, and a large garden. Loving our Lord, a simpler life, and generally just having a good time at it.

My Photo
Location: Central Minnesota, United States

An ordained minister, a full time farmer on a diversified farm in central Minnesota, loves hounds, mountain cur dogs and being out in the woods. Loves spreading the Gospel with the power of Pentecost in the upper Midwest and down in Honduras, our second home.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

We've Moved

This will be my last post on blogger because we are moving. Now at the new place it's kinda like a real move. I remember moving to the farm on July 8th 1963, going down the dirt roads with all our possesions, heading for the farm. This will be the same. First I'll have to find the door to get in though, but I should have everything figured out in a few days. Anyway, enough of the long winded stuff. Here's where we are moving to our new blog.

Also visit the farm site.

In the next few days I'll get posting over that way.

And thank you Gwen and Mark. I'll go into more details when I get totally moved in.

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Four Day Rain

Day four of rain and mud, but a glimpse of hope this afternoon and evening, the sun tried to pop out. I tagged nine new calves today, but couldn’t catch four of them buggers that were born a couple of days ago. I fell behind on tagging them because of the steady rain, figuring that it would let up a bit and give me a chance. Well, it didn’t. But, they might think they got away for now, but rest assured, I’ll get em. All in all, we received close to four inches of rain the last four days. And wouldn’t you know it, some of my onion sets came today and I don’t even dare set foot in the garden for fear of sinking away. We planted hundreds of onion sets on Good Friday along with the taters, you know, the signs were right. But I figured the ordered sets would come late so I just bought sets locally for the early stuff and they’ve been up for sometime now. Along with that I ordered multiplying onions. I had them many years ago and am glad to be reestablishing them. I like having a permanent onion bed like we always did years ago. I like onions.

But, now with this four day rain delay things have bunched up here pretty much. Grass is growing by leaps and bounds. Cattle will be able to go on pasture earlier than normal this year. Figures, when we have the feed we get early pasture, when we have the years where we’re barely going to make it with feed, the pastures always come late and I’m all nerved up. I guess that’s just one of those rules of farming. But somehow it always works out. Today when it was raining when I wasn’t chasing calves in the mud I was fixing the exhaust pipe on dad’s pickup. Now that’s another one of them rules in life. When one breaks down, they all break down. I have two older farm trucks, both 1990 Chevs, one four wheel drive three quarter ton gas hog, another half ton two wheel drive economy truck. The four wheel drive one had the thermostat go out over the weekend, the U-joint on the half ton is squeaking and rattling, so that’s short range also, only within walking distance. So I asked dad if I could borrow his nice truck to get to church Sunday morning. I get that,”It better come back in better shape than when it left” look. OK, no problem, what could possibly go wrong, eh. About two miles from church we hit a chuck hole on the gravel road and the truck began to roar, loud. I thought, oh brother! This is dandy. Got out in the mud with my good clothes on and kinda cranked my head underneath the truck and couldn’t see anything hanging down or dragging, so that was a relief. Came pulling into church sounding like one of them hot rods at a truck pull. After church I waited till almost everyone left before firing it up, praying there was no cop in town. We made it home ok, but it’s not the best feeling in the world pulling up dad’s driveway with his nice, well kept pickup thundering into the yard. What can I say, one of those days.

So we’re looking forward to getting back to work here. It’ll be a bit before we attempt any field work. Probably fix fences; it should be easy pounding in any needed posts! The creek is flooded, so I’ll stay away from fencing there for a few days. Taking everything into account though, it couldn’t get much better here on the farm.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

The 365th Day

Today is a kind of milestone for this thing called Northern Farmer Blog. It’s the 365th day in existence. The birthday is tomorrow, May 1st, which was on a Sunday, raining out, just like this year. I guess I was bored, a rainy day in May, so I was fiddling with the computer and ended up starting this place on the net. Never in my wildest dreams did I think anyone would ever notice it, let alone read it, and then even respond.

Over the past year the blog has been partly responsible for incredible changes here, meeting new folks, learning and laughing. I truly am humbled by what has happened in this little corner of the net. Now, if I was to be mean, I could blame Scott Terry for getting me hooked on this kind of communication. But, Scott is the true pioneer in my mind when it comes to Christian Agrarian blogs. That’s why he’s at the top of my blog roll and will stay on the top. Back then Herrick Kimball and I were sometimes responding to Scott and wouldn’t you know, we both started blogging a bit later. Herrick has the gift of writing that I sorely lack and he has inspired me in so many ways. And so many others in the beginning, JM, JFC, and along came Kansas Milkmaid shortly after. Still, I figured that it was just a handful of people that were reading what I wrote, and in late July Herrick suggested that I put a counter on the blog. Well, I got a surprise, it was more than a handful. And in early fall more blogs steadily came on line with the same idea in mind.

Then the true test came in October, when Rick Saenz, of Cumberland Books e-mailed, asking if he could drive up here and interview me, “gulp”. I was more nervous than a preacher in a….., oops, better not say it, it’s a family blog. But we survived and I was glad to see Rick didn’t throw the recording out the window a mile down the road like I figured he would.

But, all in all, it’s been a time of incredible change here. And reading my own words from over the past year makes me smile. On of the biggest things written, no I take that back, the biggest thing written and chronicled is our escape from the modern luke warm church. And the Lord leading us to a Bible Believing and Teaching Church. One that preaches the Word. Yup, that, and all that went with that string of events is by far the biggest thing of the past year and it’s recorded in the blog. Praise Jesus!

So, maybe this rain will end in a day or so and I’ll have to get really busy around the farm. That’ll cut down somewhat on the steady stream of posts that I’ve been putting out, it’ll just be getting back to normal is all. Sometimes I do wonder who is all reading this stuff I write. I can’t trace back, in fact, I didn’t want to when I set up the counter. But, to all who’ve posted and e-mailed over the past year, thanks! And never worry about dropping an e-mail, it might take me a bit to get back to you, but unless I blunder and forget, I answer them all. So, to sum it up, it’s been quite a ride this last year and from here on out starts year number two. I’m lookin forward to it!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Rainy Day Thoughts

It has rained here all day non stop, and we’ll take it. Changed clothes three times already today, soaked to the skin and all mudded up. But so far so good with the calving, no disasters. Almost feels strange not working full bore outside today, but when that sun comes out someday soon, the grass is going to explode with growth. Even the crop of quack grass in the expanded garden looks really healthy, not that I’m bragging about that! As soon as it dries up a bit we’ll have to get out there quick. Now, I suppose I could have sprayed it earlier with roundup herbicide like a good modern person should, we’re told, but naw, couldn’t do that. I want to eat out of the garden.

That’s like them GMO soybean, I read they’re pretty good at killing second generation rats in tests around the world. Of course in this country it’s different. Here they’re safe, it’s only hazardous in the rest of the world. Them thinkers have that all figured out for us so we can be happy and content, knowing we’re helping the corporation make enough profits to keep our lawmakers on the payroll. I hear the cost of living is pretty high in the D.C. area, so a little padding in the pocket books of our lawmakers is sure to help them and their families at least live above poverty levels. It’s the least we can do for them. Remember, they are giving up everything to represent us and help us. You can be sure of that.

But the trouble with them GMO beans as far as my rat killing plans go is that when given a choice the rats won’t touch them. I figured it would be a cheaper poison. Now, they’ll scarf up regular soybeans and thrive, but won’t touch GMO beans unless absolutely forced to. I must admit, my respect for the common sense in a rat just jumped a notch or two. That’s like about ten years ago around here when we were still farming “modern”. The seed corn salesman convinced us to plant BT corn. That’s the kind that kills the insect pests around it, you know, kinda a built in pesticide, neat huh. A death plant. We were raising a lot of pigs then, and we had it down to an art. It took about three months to get them from forty pounds to two hundred forty pounds. Everything was working like clockwork until we hit the BT corn. Everything stalled out as far as growth. It would take an average of four to six weeks longer to get them to two forty. An absolute disaster, screwed everything up around here. We were lucky enough to be able to sell the rest of it to get rid of it off the farm. Never will I forget that. That was one of the many key things that caught my attention as far as the all out lies of big ag.

When a person gets hit with things like that it goes in deep. You wake up fast. Something’s wrong! What are they telling us? Then a person starts to dig deeper into the deception and more and more comes to light. The modern system is plump full of deception. I don’t know if anyone remembers the talk of how the American farmer feeds the world. Well, setting the record straight, we’re a net importer of food now. Another is how ethanol is going to relieve the gas crunch, propaganda if I ever heard it. It takes more energy to make modern ethanol then the energy received when you consider the fossil fuels to raise and fertilize the dead lands that can’t hardly produce a weed anymore because they’re mined out.

What big ag doesn’t like to talk about is independent farmers that raise healthy food. Remember, big ag is also big pharmaceutical, interesting how that all works. Don’t worry about eating our poison; we’ll sell you a pill! That should take care of it. Got a person coming or going, and in today’s society few give a rip. It’s just society looking in the mirror saying me, me, me. I wonder what the average person would think if they even had the slightest idea how their food supply is so vulnerable to crisis. I wonder if they realize the tremendous amount of energy wasted producing it, transporting it, all vulnerable to the slightest disaster. But many say, they’ll figure it out, I’m not worried, they’ll figure it out. Just like energy, they’ll figure it out. I wonder if people would be more interested in having a small garden if they knew reality. Too often I’ve heard people say, “who cares, I’ll be dead by then”. Now that’s a fine way to look at your children’s future. And unless you figure on dying pretty darn quick I wouldn’t be too confident.

It’s sometimes hard to write these things because more than likely I’ll just be classified as some sort of nut. I’m not talking about gloom and doom when I write this. I’m talking about making some common sense changes in lifestyle so a person and their family can adjust to change, a change that will come sooner or later. One thing that I’ve been studying is how Cuba has changed in the last fifteen years or so. When the Soviet Union collapsed Cuba was left high and dry without any source of energy. Experts in this country were predicting that countries collapse. What Cuba did was something else. They reinstituted private land ownership so that small farmers could take a hold of their own destiny. They sponsored government education, educating the private farmers in organic production methods, and they turned to animal power to till the organically farmed land. They merged the modern organic knowledge with renewable animal power and now have a thriving agriculture sector. Cuba never fell as many were predicting it would. They realized that food production was the number one goal and they achieved it. And with it they returned to private farms and farmers, families farming raising healthy foods. The old hard line communists had to concede and the people achieved more freedom. It’s funny how this works with any form of government, when food production is a priority, freedom strengthens. This country is no different, the founding fathers knew agriculture was and is the key to freedom. The free farmers have a set of standards that’s much different than what the industrial world wants to program society with. They knew it over two hundred years ago and it still stands. Someday it will turn back to that here, because there will be no other choice. Without the free farmers there will be no society.

Home Hatched Layers

This morning is rainy, chores are done, finally, I'm drying off in the house, so I figured I'd post a couple photos of some of our home grown layers. Time to reload the incubator.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Farmers Holiday

Today we’re getting the first real rain of the year in our neck of the woods and it’s welcome. It’s not a driving rain and should help the oats, alfalfa and grass that we have planted. So this is the first official Farmers Holiday of the season. Besides chores and an occasional check on the cow herd to see if any new calves are popping out, there’s not all that much to do. Well, I suppose I could work in the shop, but, naw. So this morning I went driving over to the good guy co-op a couple of miles from here to pay a alfalfa seed bill that I had there for the last couple of weeks, and the reason I even had a bill was the gal at the time wasn’t quite sure of the price and had to ask the manager when he got in later. You see, I bought the seed from them because the big name co-op charges from two to three times the price for the same seed. Soooo, I save almost a thousand dollars, eh. Not bad being a selective shopper. Anyway, after chowing down around a quart of salted peanuts at the co-op and shooting the bull for almost forty five minutes, (farmers have it rough), As I was about to leave, one of the guys that’s job is to forward contract for farmers came in and sat down on a stool beside me, (he doesn't work for the co-op). So I shoved the ice cream pail of salted peanuts between him and me. He knows me and always has wanted to get a piece of our farms income, which is highly unlikely to happen by the way.

Now, I consider myself a small family farmer, even though we are in the top ten percent in the nation as far as the number of cattle we raise, and he knows it too. Well, he just can’t figure out why I don’t forward contract our cattle and be modern. He always gives me a big line about how I have to get with the times, besides, he needs a commission to pay off that new pickup parked outside, and pay for the gas too! He doesn’t have a pickup like mine; parked on the slope out front in case the starter won’t engage. Then I just push in the clutch, let er roll down the hill and start it second gear. We make do. As I crack open some more peanuts I have to ponder the situation as I’m in sitting on the barstool at the counter of the co-op. To put it bluntly, the guy wants what he thinks is his fair share of my income. It’s truthfully pretty hard to pry anything out of me if your from big ag though.

After politely listening to him for a couple minutes, I just had to say my feeling about marketing. I told him I already had a contract for all my critters. “With WHO?” he says, thinking, who finally got to Tom before me. I told him I contracted out everything to the Lord. It’s all in His hands and I just race to keep up with what He’s doing on the farm since He’s got the contract. Since getting my new Boss, I stand amazed at the incredible and rapid changes sweeping over the farm. I smile, heck I even jump up and down, my biggest job is trying to keep up with what the Boss is changing here. I can sleep at night knowing He’s taking care of everything for us. Everything and I mean everything falls into place, and so many times I’m playing catch up to what He’s implementing in our operation. Now, I know this will probably just get a laugh from a lot of folks, don’t matter to me though. I know what is happening around here, and it’s big!

This big ag representative is more than likely laughing this all off, more than likely thinks I’ve lost it between the ears. But I figure, so what, he wants to only take from us, the Boss wants to give. I’ll follow the Boss!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Thoughts Along the Furrow

Plowing the soil is about as old as creation, the methods have changed here and there, but the end result is the same as in the beginning, to turn over the soil in preparation for a crop to help feed man. There’s just something about that job that can make a person reflect on a whole variety of subjects while working. The job itself is rather simple to one that has experience, but can be daunting to someone giving it a first try. After a person is settled in doing the job, watching the sod continually turning over, exposing a fragrant black humus teaming with a life of it’s own, the body takes over doing the required adjustments and the mind can float off in a different direction.

Some look at farmers and farming as a job for simpletons, dimwits, people who can’t function in what’s called normal society. But, in fact, it’s apparently the other way around when studying world history. All great civilizations were growing and at their greatest when those society’s farmers were looked at as critically important to the very existence of their way of life. And at one point or another, these same great societies brushed the farmers out the backdoor, put urban ways before agriculture and declined, eventually collapsing. As I’m plowing it’s plain to see parallels between what happened many times before and what is happening now. Until a few decades ago farmers and rural life were the unquestionable backbone of America. Now we’re just something in the way of mans quest for self fulfillment, taking up space on land that could better be used by developers or recreation. We’re looked at as the enemy of corporations wanting to import cheap food and charging the consumers inflated prices making huge profits at the expense of average families. We’re looked at by the government as an easy target in the war on terrorism for them. The not so secret plan of destroying family farmers has finally come out of the closet with Animal Identification, which is the prelude to marking all citizens.

Sometimes I have to wonder, good old bumpkin farmer me, why is it that we can never learn from history. Man has been plowing since the beginning, all civilization came from the plow, and the civilization then turns away from the plow, distaining it, the civilization collapses. Simple. Short and sweet. Not much room for debate. And when the high and mighty fall, the same ones that they distained pick up the plow and start over. Today, as I was plowing I was thinking along that line.All I can say is, God help us.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Farmer Pirates

After yesterday’s cool down and almost rain, today was beautiful and sunny. It’s getting a bit dry but that can change in the blink of an eye. So we’ll just get as much work done as possible while we can. Yesterday JM was over, so now instead of somebody from way over in Indiana stopping here it’s a fellow Central Minnesotan. As soon as calving winds down in a few weeks I’ll be making a pilgrimage over his way to see what’s up over there.

Before my Lenten break from blogging I posted about going organic around here and we are. In fact as far as food quality it’ll be beyond organic as the word is known today. In fact I think that I might even be breaking the law writing the last sentence. Since the government claimed ownership of the word a few years ago I don’t even know if I have the freedom of speech to use it about our farming practices. So I’m in kinda a pickle here blogging about this. But, I’ve been researching the whole mess and my conscience is telling me to stay away from government, oops, I mean big ag, and just raise the highest quality food without having to report to the high government folks that were working for big ag before they got appointed to the USDA and other anti-American departments, totally representing the interests of their parent companies.

It’s getting to the point that more and more folks are starting to realize what’s labeled organic in the super markets could be of the same low quality as the regular foods that are stocked. Because, face it, your not going to get real organic food from a huge company, period. The rules are being bent more and more everyday so the huge big ag companies can label products organic. And with a USDA that has the seemingly only goal of destroying independent family farms from the face of the earth it would seem like an uphill battle for the producer of truly quality foods. But, them desk jockeys in big ag and it’s puppet, the USDA, have a hard time figuring out what’s happening with the people out away from their upside down world. They don’t take into account that people can read and study what’s happening with the food supply. They figure they’ll just keep dumbing down the population and make sure that big ag gets all the profits from every plateful of food served. But people do catch on! People are starting to understand the deception all over this country and it’s picking up steam. The newspaper here has had numerous articles the past couple of years about city folks looking for family farmers to buy direct from for their family in order to have the highest quality food possible on their tables. And according to the articles there’s a shortage of farmers to fill the demand.

Now, big ag seen the organic movement picking up steam a while back and couldn’t stand the possibility of family farmers getting a share of the food dollar so they bought off the government, short and sweet. Oh, a person can argue, “no, no, our government is for the people”. All I can say to that is, Congratulations, you’ve just won a trip to Wally World to continue your fantasies! Be happy.” I like the term in Small Farmer’s Journal for the emerging family farmers that refuse to produce poisoned foods for the population. They’re called “Farmer Pirates”. I like that! I also know that the family farmers are one of the last bastions of freedom this country has. It’s the very backbone of everything good in this country. Wall Street is small potatoes compared to the family farmers as far as the health of this nation.

So I guess, to sum it up, we’re going to raise the highest quality food possible on the farm. One incredibly important reason is we are our number one customer. We eat what we raise. And when I sell something to a customer I know their family, I know who they are. And they’ll only get the best. I can sleep at night knowing that. Trace back is simple, the customer knows where they bought it from, me. We will probably not be using the word “organic” for our products; it just gets me after studying it all that I’d have to purchase the right to use the word from Big AG/USDA. And we’re talking thousands of dollars a year for the right to use the word. We’ll use other words while we can and when the government says we can’t use those words we’ll find others. Farmer Pirates, it has a ring to it!