Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Three Months Ago



I had just spent a long day row cultivating corn using our 55 year old Deere 4020 tractor (seen in the header of this blog, driven by my dad.) I remember feeling beat up -- and proud, since I'd never cultivated before and it had taken quite a bit of work just to get the old implement moving.  It was also hot, something that seems like a distant memory now, when temps have barely made it above 40º for the past three weeks.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

It's Official - We're "Organic"

My certifying agency is MOSA.  It's taken three years, but the first 61 acres is certified. All in all, a fairly smooth process.  To give you some idea of what's involved, I have a notebook detailing every bit of work I've done on that parcel for the past three years. An independent inspector needed to see all the receipts for the inputs used on the land, which she looked at during a six hour on farm inspection.  I paid about $1100 for this.

This certification is important for the farm, as the only way to sell an "organic" product to another (certified) organic producer is to have your product officially certified.  In our case this means that with every semi-truckload of organic grain that we sell, and it looks like there will be about nine full loads coming off this 61 acres, we need to provide the buyer with our Certification Number. This, in turn, allows for an auditable trail, enabling every input for a certified organic product to be verified as following organic practices in its production.

"My Partner in Organic Success"
The rapidly growing organic market is a great opportunity for farmers, food processors, handlers, restaurants, and food retailers. Consumers are demanding, and are willing to pay a premium for, food and fiber produced in accordance with the USDA National Organic Standards. To access this market, you will need a knowledgeable and professional certification partner. As a USDA accredited certification agency with over 17 years of experience, MOSA is ready to serve your needs. 


Next year, based on our experience we're going to transition another 110 acres, spread across 3 different fields. 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Repairing the Masonry Heater Firebox

Last winter was the first for my masonry heater.  While building, curing and using it I meticulously followed all the proper procedures.  I used it full out, meaning firing it as often as recommended, simply because it was an abnormally cold winter and my farmhouse is unfinished.

I knew that the mortar was cracking inside the firebox, but put off repairing it as I was occupied with running the farm. A couple of weeks ago I began to consider what should be done.  After an inspection showed the mortar in the firebox was crumbling, I called Smith-Sharpe Firebrick Supply in Minneapolis and asked an expert "What should I do?". He said I might have used a bad bag of mortar, doubtful in my opinion, but that something called "Greepatch 421" would be the best product to repoint the joints.

When building the firebox I used the refractory mortar that came with the "kit" I bought from Eric Moshier at Solid Rock Masonry. It was rated up to 2500º. The new stuff is rated at 3500º. Maybe that will help, even though my temps never got above 2000º. (That infrared heat thermometer sure is useful.)

(Click on any picture to make it bigger.)


I started repairing the wall on the right. I scraped about 3/8" out of all the existing joints with a tuckpointing trowel. The mortar, when it didn't pop right out, was surprisingly soft.



 I also removed and relaid the floor of the firebox. The grate that fits in the hole seen in the bottom of the firebox was badly damaged and in need of replacement.  The "owners manual" from Solid Rock Masonry states that the grate will need to be replaced every other year. I'm ahead of schedule.

The old grate was badly corroded and had a bow/bend in it of about 1/2".

With the sides done I relaid the floor.
I think, and a phone call to the firebrick company will clear this up, that the mortar will have to cure for at least two weeks. Meaning no fires, and then only small ones. This is unfortunate because we've already had two nights with temps below freezing. For the next few weeks it looks like temps will be 10-15 degrees below normal.


Birds in the Yard



I like watching them roam around.. Their colors and sounds are vibrant, and memorable. As unsentimental as it sounds, I/we will kill them and put them in the freezer in the middle of October.  If anyone would like to help with that let me know.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Cold

No heat, other than two 1500 watt electric heaters, in the farm house. Carl spends as much time as possible under the covers.



Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Construction Update

I've been working on the farmhouse - Placing rigid insulation, then covered with stucco, around the exposed foundation


putting in several new windows. My dad has been helping me all the way through this build.


followed by trim around the windows, then siding. 








the guinea fowl like to climb up on the buildings

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Farm Politics

There are a lot of things that are "broken" that I'd argue are working as designed.  The economics of agriculture are in that category.


The above quote is a screen shot from a pdf titled "Parity and Farm Justice: Recipe for a Resilient Food System"

Parity is the idea of a "fair price" for farm commodities.  The "market" isn't able to pay anything near the cost of production for many commodities.  The large players have destroyed what worked in the early days of the Farm Bill and replaced it with something that preserves their access to a seemingly endless supply of cheap inputs.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We can make parity a household word. It’s as simple as believing in a living wage for farm workers, and a just food system.
 Even the "winners", at this moment organic grain/meat producers (though not dairy), are forced to play by these rules and will eventually be incorporated into the larger system.

The subsidies in place now are solely for crop insurance. So a failed crop ensures payment to the providers of inputs without putting anything in the pocket of the farmer.

It's a big subject. I'd encourage the few people who read this blog to continue to ask questions.