Monday, February 21, 2011

If I had a farm...

I'd be over the moon ecstatic! My friend Tori over at http://www.sunfromabove.com/ just posted something very inspirational for me. I often dream of what I would do with a farm, the animals I would have and the produce I would grow. Most often my fantasy takes me to a warmer climate where the options are more numerous, both for produce and critters. For instance, Tori's family's farm in Iowa immediately brought to mind a farm stand in the yard where neighbors could come from all around to buy from me. They pick up their eggs and we discuss the Lord and they get a gospel tract and an invite to church on Sunday. I am always willing to discuss my farming and explain that the Lord gave us stewardship of this planet. We're to dress and keep it, not rape and destroy it. The Lord put Earth here to sustain us so we'd best do it right.
I've replaced the miles of corn with acres of lush green pasture and row upon row of heirloom produce. I grow many varieties of melons, tomatoes, beans, squash, peppers, tomatoes, corn etc. Children come and watch the laying flocks cruise around the pastures eating bugs and scattering cow patties. Turkey hens carefully shepherd their poults while strutting toms defend their families. Heritage hogs, Red Wattle or maybe Ossabaw, grunt and sigh in the the shade of an oak tree. Spry piglets run and squeal and romp around their patient parents, living the life they should until it's time to meet the butcher in October. I don't know the raw milk laws in Iowa but on my farm I sell raw milk, yogurt, cream, butter and cheese to anyone who wants it. The lovely white gold is produced by those beautiful cows lounging in the sun, rumens stuffed with grass. I have many breeds, both dairy and beef, because each has it's strengths and it's weaknesses.
Beside the barn is my orchard. I grow apples, pears, cherries, some hardy peaches and apricots. My favorite tree of all is the plum tree. I LOVE plums picked fresh from the branch. I love them more than my grapes or even my strawberries. It's a little bit of a struggle to keep the tree producing but did I mention how much I love plums?
Before the sun sets I need to be out picking up what's been harvested. I bought a couple of older horses from a local family that couldn't afford to keep them anymore. I don't know what breed they are but they are gentle and easy to work with. They trained to pull the farm wagon in two days and that makes them awesome. They stand patiently while I hitch them up. I hate the noise of a tractor so my trusty horses pull the wagon down rows of plants. Many of the local teenagers come here in the summer to make a few bucks harvesting. I don't hire illegals, no matter how little they work for. I prefer to give the local teens a sense of pride in their community and hope to educate them about the need for farms of this ilk.
As I pull up to each worker they load the wagon with basket upon basket of goods, then jump on for the ride. We chat about the weather and they tell me about Farmer So-and-So down the road apiece. Monsanto is suing him for letting his corn get contaminated by their patented GMO corn. I shake my head in sadness, then grin as my high tunnels come into view. I do not grow sugar beets, alfalfa or soybeans, but I do grow many varieties of corn. To protect my beautiful plants from contamination I built a dozen high tunnels. They are similar to greenhouses only they don't get as hot during our Iowa summers. Agents from the big corporation descended on my piece of paradise once. They accused me of stealing their product by "allowing" GMO corn pollen to fertilize my heritage corn. When I showed them my high tunnels their heads hung in disappointment and they slunk off my farm. They aren't getting their hands on anything of mine!
Spring and summer is spent sowing, growing, tending, selling and repairing. Fall is spent harvesting both plants and animals, and making sure I have enough food put away for me and my animals. Winter is spent sitting in front of my fireplace sipping homemade cider and watching the snow fall. There's a peace in my heart from knowing that I used the time that the Lord gave me to provide for my family and my community in a way that stewards the land and furthers the Gospel of Christ.

Now, let's put this fantasy in Alaska, which is far more realistic for me. Up here there's 28 acres that I can use to create my farm. A full third of it is actually swamp land that I intend to use as a water fowl hunting area. It is not protected be The Wetlands Act so we're going to clean out the stream and build a pond. Hopefully it will attract cranes, ducks and geese in the fall, during hunting season. Our lifestyle fills the freezer with fish and the odd moose. Because of this the pressure to grow my own meat is reduced. I can concentrate more on plants since our growing season is so short.
Our pigs are temporary, no breeding. But, they get to fully express their pigness while they are here. We are building pens that will be 10' x 10' for them. They are movable pens so the piggies get new ground to root and destroy every couple of days. Two pigs can be incredibly destructive so we're using them to loosen stumps and clear land that we can later use for pasture. When the ground freezes and our pigs have reached a desirable weight then we will put them in the freezer, starting with new pigs next spring. I do intend to find a source for heritage pigs in the state but not this year.
My wonderful cow, Bonnie, is already a pasture fed, grain-free cow and she has provided a bull calf for us to beef, unless she has another bull calf her second time. If number two is also a bull then Cody gets a stay of execution and hopefully will live a long life breeding someone else's cows.
My turkey family is short a tom this year. He had a heart attack when Marathon Oil Company drove a brush hog ten feet from the coop. I am currently in contact with a lady who has her own hatchery in Sterling. She may have an extra Bourbon Red tom this spring that she is willing to part with plus I am on her list for poults. If she doesn't have a tom at least I will have some more turkeys to raise. I intend to keep a hen and butcher one of the hens I already have. She was injured by the tom last summer and is not getting along like I want. I doubt she would successfully breed, even to a lighter tom, and then I'm not sure she'd be able to protect her babies from foul weather and the odd eagle. I'd rather butcher her now than find out she's not up to the job and lose an entire batch of poults. Their pen will be moved as well, to the other side of the barn which is a good 200 feet from the pipeline. Their pasture will be large and lush and the perfect place to raise pastured turkeys for Thanksgiving tables.
My plan for a garden is somewhat complex and yet so simple. I want three permanent corrals somewhere close to the house. They will be the garden. The first year I will let the pigs clear the first one. That winter it will house the calves and finishing beeves. In spring and summer I will put my meat chickens in it. It will lay empty that winter. The next spring and summer I have a tilled and fertilized plot to grow my veggies in. They will rotate so I don't grow in the same one year after year. The corral that is attached to the barn is for my momma cows and the current year's babies. Each spring the rich manure and leftover hay gets carried out and placed in a mound to begin composting. If someone wants some they just have to come and get it.
In a neat row, next to the pipeline, we have teeny, tiny apple trees. We have yet to harvest a single apple but every year we have hope. We rejoice over every single new leaf that bursts from each branch. Next to our apple trees is a row of raspberries. Those we have no issues growing. They thrive in our climate and produce big, succulent berries year after year. This spring I will scope out a place for a blueberry bed. Because we have neutral soil the spot needs amending and forethought. I cannot simply plunk them in the ground and forget about them. I will move my gooseberry and give it a buddy so I actually get gooseberries from it. Because of the plans for the pasture the lilac doesn't need moved and I'm sure she will be so happy when all the shading cottonwoods are cut down. My beautiful Red Leaf Rose is sending suckers every which way in an attempt to survive marauding cattle. I will cut out the suckers and prune the poor thing this spring. Then I will sink posts deep into the ground on both sides so cattle chains don't get drug over the top of it anymore.
Because he is almost a grown up, Cody is spending the summer at the neighbor's house, being her lawnmower. I couldn't do it last year because Bonnie didn't like him being out of her sight. She will have a new baby to look after in June and Cody will be just another cow.
I sit at the computer, gazing wistfully out the window as snowflakes swirl and dance, knowing that my farm is waiting for me, in two short months.

If I had a farm I would be over the moon ecstatic, but I am building a farm and that is so much more satisfying.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Eating Through The Freezers

It sounds simple right? Make a list of what's in the freezer, make up the menu from your list and don't go grocery shopping that month, voila! Actually it's much harder than yo might think, especially when freezer inventory is interrupted by 3 weeks of the cold from Hades and then a mastitic cow. Fortunately, my cold has abated enough that I can finally contemplate finishing the job and my poor Bonnie is walking around in a cloud of peppermint from the balm that I rub on her udder twice a day.
Stay tuned for a riveting series in the month of March as I try and find new and creative ways of eating liver, halibut and salmon roe. Actually, I happen to like all three of those things so maybe I'll have to get creative with the pig kidneys and turkey giblets. Hm, sounds good already!

About Me

We're a family that came to Alaska in shifts. We've been here since 1995 and don't plan to leave any time soon.

For Jaime

Comment from a SMART President

" The government that is big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take everything you have."

Thomas Jefferson President 1801-1809
Died on JULY 4th, 1826

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