Saturday, December 19, 2009

The southern one third of the state of Minnesota is under a pollution warning this last week before Christmas, which is an unwelcome reminder that we here in western Minnesota are connected with the entire world when it comes to suffering from the bad effects of our careless living. It matters not whether this is home grown pollution or that it drifted in from China. Burning eyes and restricted breathing don't make those distinctions. Neither, anymore, can we.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Early winter

After all the rainy days in October, November was a blessing with moderate temperatures, little rain and a few chances to see the sun. It let us get the soybeans harvested, and many of the endless list of to-do's that go with a livestock farm done so that we are about as ready for winter as we ever have been.

The prairie skies have been beautiful this month with fiery reds and vivid pinks blending into indigo and then azure blue as the sun moves. Television and DVD's can't compare with this display. Sitting on the porch or even by an east window with the morning's coffee is the best way to begin a winter's day! Winter, with its list of things that can't be done, must be nature's way of telling us to slow down and notice. It is harder to work a long day this time of year. In July it is relatively easy for even an oldtimer like me to work a ten or twelve hour day on six hours of sleep. But as winter solstice approaches, I find myself needing a full eight hours sleep again.

By the way, this message and other observations and thoughts both farm related and not appear on the blog on our website. Go to "News" from the home page or just straight to PasturesAPlenty.blogspot to have a look. Comments encouraged. Take care of yourself and whomever else you can this Christmas!


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Now the weather has dried up a little in November and we are able to get some of our work done before freeze up, we hope. We took the small field of soybeans last week and found about ten percent dark and discolored which the buyers won't like very well but we are happy to get as far as we did. The corn still stands on the stalk and is showing blue green mold on many of the ears. We will try to get it harvested before Christmas and hope the mold doesn't interfere with the feeding value.

All of which goes to show, I guess, that farming is not industry. Farmers have far less control than the owners of factories and are often needing to change plans part way through. Our farm is diverse, and we have options. If we cannot harvest the corn with combine harvestors, we will figure out a way to send out the hogs! They know how.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

After the heavy rains in late September, October has developed into a trying month. We have not had more that two rain free days the entire month even though the amounts of rain have generally been moderate. Like other farmers, we cannot harvest our fall crops, but in addition to that, we must cope with mud everywhere in trying to keep animals comfortable and productive. We have also much work around the yard and facilties to finish before freezeup and that proceeds slowly. Much of it involves digging; we must dig up a cattle drinker to fix the underground valve, we have two shorts in the underground electric cables that must be found so that we can keep the water frost free this winter. We have a gas line to trench in so that we can keep the pigs warm.

And any animal that lives mostly outdoors in putting up with the weather right now. We are nearly half through our inventory of bedding and the ground hasn't even frozen yet. It will be an expensive month. I don't usually look forward to winter, but when the ground freezes I will be able to walk outside again and that won't be all bad! We are hanging in there. It keeps us out of the saloons, as they say. At least we have work. Boy do we have work. But some don't and that's worse.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

We have received six inches of rain here at Pastures A Plenty in the two weeks starting on the 24th of September. The amazing thing is that we don't have any water standing anywhere except for wheel ruts around the livestock lots and barns. Now we have run a bit short of rainfall for the last several years, but to have no ponding is remarkable. I remember large rainfalls in the eighties that resulted in ponding that froze over in December, the ice lasting til the next spring. This is due to the difference in our farming, I am convinced. Pastures hold and store water better than any other agricultural use, and the soil, even in the cropping areas, is much higher in organic matter and waterholding capacity due to our long rotations including grass and hay.

Flood control starts not with levees, but with farming done right. The condition of the acres in the watershed is both the most important flood control and the hardest to accomplish, depending as it does upon the resolve of ordinary people to farm responsibly.

Monday, September 14, 2009

"Don't contaminate your grill with anything less than a Pastures A Plenty brat!" This comment was overheard at the Slow Food Minnesota event at the Callister farm in SE Minnesota last Sunday, the 13th. It is bragging, I suppose, to mention it on the website, but we are extraordinarily proud of this brat and the hot dog, (both of them "No added Nitrite") because the spice recipe used to make them was devised by us, namely Josh and Cindy, who then found the additive free sausage base mix to use in the process. All this was done in response to a customer who noticed something on the label she did not like the looks of. The entire process took not more than three months. No one in the meat industry responds this fast! But we did. Try the brat!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Health care reform is, of course, critical to us farmers. We must buy individual policies at well above the group rate, or we must sponsor our own doctor visits and hospitalizations at rates fifty percent higher than are charged to insurance companies.

Most farmers, and I would be one of these, do not think much of insurance anyway, because we pay far too much of our incomes out in insurance to cover vehicles, crops, livestock, farm liability, fire, wind and on and on. This most often without seeing any payout. That is why this "reform" effort puzzles me. Without government involvement in paying for health care, we are left with the promises of a bunch of insurance and drug companies that they will not jack up prices too much, they will not kick us off when we are sick, they will not disallow payment for necessary care and so forth. Government supposedly will regulate this. Regulation didn't work very well on Wall Street, did it?

I don't think government will be able to decently regulate anything until we the people develop some pride in aspects of our character that don't have to do with accumulation of wealth and power. Then we can encourage and honor honest behavior in jour public servants and thus encourage a job well done.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Most notable about the Time article on cheap food is the statement about needing more people on farms. Has anyone ever heard before that more people are needed in any form of productive work in this economy? Such language is against the faith for the economists running our government and corporate systems. For them there is no place for people except as consumers, which is an animal something like a feedlot steer. Bottomless appetite.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

August News

News from the Farm at Pastures A' Plenty

We are coming to the end of summer again which brings us to several welcome events. Fairs, of course, have been important to farmers for generations, coming as they do at the time when the battle against weeds is ending again for the season and the hopes for crops and livestock are about to bear fruit. Thus the Pastures children/grandchildren will be showing the farm's hogs at the Chippewa County fair in Montevideo on August 12th through the 15th. And then we look forward to the Minnesota Cooks event at the Minnesota State Fair on September 1st from nine in the morning until four in the afternoon at Carousel Park. Our pork will be cooked for the crowd at one and the chef is our own J D Fratzke of the new Strip Club on the east side in St Paul. We are looking forward to tasting what he has for us. We will be sampling our products at the nearby tent in the morning and most of us will be there. Come and visit with us and celebrate the local food idea you helped create! And then remember our annual on the farm open house and customer appreciation September 26th this year. We will have more on that next time. Enjoy these days of the waning sun. Winter comes soon enough!
You may want to check out the August 31 issue of Time Magazine article
"The Real Cost of Cheap Food." LeeAnn

News from the Red Tail Valley

Dear customers,
Bursts of rain, rain and more rain was the story for this weekend. We received about 2 1/4" over the past three days, about five times the previous total from mid May. This morning I stayed home to take advantage of the cooler temperatures to do some of my farm work and the humidity that accompanies the rain had me sweating little puddles into my boots by 9:30. Mind you I'm not complaining! Three days ago I wasn't sure what the cows would have to eat next week and I can now see a grazing strategy into late November.

It's time for some steaks on the grill and we're well stocked. Remember, grass fed meat cooks more quickly and at lower temperatures than corn fed beef. The interstitial fat insulates the protein in conventional meat requiring higher temperatures and longer cooking times. On the grill, that means move those steaks further away from the heat source and watch them carefully! Also, defrost thoroughly and take the steaks out of the refrigerator for awhile before grilling so they cook evenly.

I tried some burgers on the grill with our new ground beef and pork mix and they were great. Since the ground pork tends to be a little softer I brushed the hot grill with a little oil before I put them on.

Stew meat is great on a skewer on the grill. Or, order some of our regular round steak and cut it into strips or chunks. (If you're grilling for a crowd, a chuck or an arm roast works well for this too.) These cuts brim with flavor but they will be tough unless tenderized in the cooking process. Marinating with any citrus acid helps. One of my favorites is equal parts orange juice, soy sauce, and olive oil with chopped garlic and ginger. Flavored vinegars are also effective and can really enhance the flavor of the beef

Have a great August! Let's hope the rains keep coming and the rough weather stays away.

See you soon!