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Summer Fun Video Series #4

Our landlord wanted to make bread so he had the neighbors plant a few acres of wheat. We got his old Allis Chalmers All Crop 60 Harvest running but shortly after I shot this video (about a week ago) it broke down. I hope to be back out tonight to finish it up.


Summer Fun Video Series #3

Sorry for the wind noise...


Summer Fun Video Series #2

And here's another:

This was shot on June 26th. The sheep have been "free-range" ever since. Although the sunflowers, Indian corn and beans fell victim to their freedom. And I don't think it's rained since then either.


summer fun video series

Since we have completely neglected our blogging duties, I thought I would try to make it up to you with a bunch of videos from the farm. You are forewarned that these were shot using my cell phone, in the midst of doing whatever it was that I was doing at the time. So they can get pretty bouncy and there's some heavy breathing in the background on one or two... I also haven't edited them but most of them are pretty short.

Here's your first installment of the Open Sky Farm Summer Fun Video Series. Enjoy, FJ.

Movin' Cows


Blessed Rain


farm update

Farmer Jon here, thought I would update you on some of the farm happenings. 

We finally made the decision to castrate hogs. It ended up being a one man operation but it still worked well. I'd say the average time on each pig was around 1-2 minutes to catch, tag, and castrate.

It's definitely one of my least favorites parts of the job but it's something that needed to be done to ensure that they didn't breed. Being able to choose the best boars and sows to breed allows us to select the ones that are thriving and avoid the ones that aren't doing as well. Which will ultimately make for even happier and healthier pigs. This took place a few weeks ago and they are all doing great!
(I had a call out of the blue looking for a boar to buy as breeding stock. Of course, I had to tell him that I just castrated all my boars except one! I couldn't believe it. I've had these hogs for over a year and I get my first call for breeding stock, a few weeks AFTER I castrate for the first time...)

I finally replaced the batteries in our off-grid system. It was a little intimidating reading and hearing from installers/gurus about how you had to be very careful or you could cause an explosion...

But I followed their guidance: no metal zippers or buttons on clothing, wrap tools in electrical tape, wrap ends of cables, don't set tools on the edge of the battery box. And here is the finished product. FYI, those dang batteries are heavy (100lbs+).

 Do you know what a musk thistle is? It's an awful weed that is on almost every state's noxious weed list. Which means you can get in trouble for having them on your property. Or at least for not actively trying to manage them. We have a BUNCH of them around the farm and since we aren't using chemicals we have to use good ole fashioned manpower to take care of them with a spade. Here's the dam right next to the driveway, covered in thistles. Dam thistles...

It didn't take long to clean up the east half but I quickly lost steam after that but we did finally get the dam taken care of. Although a handful have popped back up again already.

And, of course, Jamie and Clara have been very busy themselves. Here they are weeding in the garden.


Finally I harvested something!

Yummy...first mixed green salad of the summer from my OWN garden.  I'm pretty pumped to actually be eating something from my garden, especially since my last post was so woe is me.

Combine this with a shredded chicken breast, feta cheese, snap peas, roasted golden beets from Robinette Farms and a little olive oil/balsamic vinegar and I had one tasty meal tonight!  I love summertime meals!


And first Farmer's Market done!

Wooweee....that was fun!

I have a confession to make...I was not really looking forward to our first day at market.  My garden has been an utter failure this year and I didn't feel like we would have anything to sell.  I've been focusing so much on my garden that I completely forget we have great meat and egg products to sell!  We sold ground beef, pork sausage, chicken and ducks eggs.  It was so much fun to meet everyone!  I had a total blast and can't wait until next week.  Thanks for everyone who stopped by to buy meat and eggs from us or even just to say hi!  We really appreciate it!

And now on to the garden.  I had such high hopes this year and what I've come to realize was unrealistic expectations of myself.  I underestimated the amount of work that I had planned for myself and overestimated my abilities to grow.  Combine that with the fact that I've got a six month old to take care of and actually manage to cook some meals now and then.  And let's not get started on the laundry...  It's tough, because the really good growers make it look easy.  And it's not.  There is so much to learn about soil fertility, planting schedules, pest and weed management.  My hats off to you experienced growers!  But we all have to start somewhere and this year is my somewhere.  For every seed that I plant, I gain experience.  For every time I lose a planting to bugs, I learn.  And every time I look at my garden and want to throw my hands up and quit, I have to remember what kind of lesson that would teach my daughter.  It's easy to quit, but it's harder to persevere in the face of inexperience and adversity.  So, I'm doing it.  I'm taking the lessons I learned from my Community Crops class and moving on.

Here's what we've got going on in the garden:

I've got some baby leaf lettuce and spinach over on the left that I'm trying to salvage from a flea beetle attack.  The next row over are my tomatoes and peppers.  The row after that is half beans/half sunflowers.  And all the way over on the right, I have some multicolored corn, three types of sunflowers and Zinnias.  Oh....and lots of weeds.  You can't miss those suckers.

Here we have some head lettuce that I am bound and determined to eat.  Three little heads is all I have left after transplanting over fifty.  Note to self: transplanting fragile head lettuce transplants in 30 mph wind = not my smartest move.

And here are my two remaining heads of Romaine.  I will eat those things!

And here's the best explanation for my lack of garden work...

I've got an ankle clinger all ready! :)


farm update

Farm Jon Here. We're still working feverishly to "catch up" with all the spring happenings. Jamie was able to get tomatoes and peppers in the ground before the rain. I finally fixed the tractor and the shredder and was able to prep the area for our trees. Hopefully today I can get the trees in the ground.

I suppose I should explain the trees. I signed up for several NRCS programs this year. One of which was a windbreak/shelterbelt renovation, which entailed planting 350 trees around the farmyard. I was very excited because I worked with them to create an "edible landscape" so we have pecans, walnuts, plums, cranberries, apricots and many more. All of which are edible by animals and/or humans. The time came and I picked up the trees and the tree planter only to come home and be completely overwhelmed. I decided I wasn't sure if their design was going to be too much of a hindrance on farming activities. It wasn't until I was out there trying to get ready that I realized how many things would need to be moved (trailers, piles of junk, piles of tree limbs, etc) and other trees cut down. Plus, that's where I was grazing the sheep and the bulls. Anyway, long story short, I abandoned the project and was going to cut my losses on the 350 trees I had already paid for. Monday rolled around and I told my NRCS guy the situation. He hopped in his truck and came right out. We surveyed the landscape and came up with a new plan that would alleviate most of my concerns, get the trees in the ground and ensure that I didn't lose my money on the trees. So, here I am a week later and hoping to get the trees in the ground today. Hopefully, it's not too wet...

We have decided to get some official help (not just from friends and family). We hope to bring in 1-2 part-time folks to help with various tasks around the farm. We're pretty excited because we've gotten a great response from a bunch of great people. We're still in the process of getting back to everyone but we'll keep you informed of how the process goes and introduce you to them once we have it all sorted out. One of them is hopefully coming out today to help me plant trees, since someone has to drive the tractor and someone has to sit on the tree planter.

If you haven't heard, we will start selling at the Old Cheney Road Farmers' Market on June 3rd and we will be there almost every Sunday through October.

Also, we have wholes and halves of pork available now and will have beef wholes, halves and quarters available later this year (but only a few, so reserve now!). Let us know if you're interested or might know of someone who would be.


spring is in the air

but all I can smell is burnt rubber, as the soles of our shoes (boots) melt from the constant running around.

Farmer Jon here and boy have we been busy. Which has become our new normal since we moved out here but lately we've been even busier than usual. Here are a few examples:

Our dark cornish chicks are a few weeks old and growing a little every day

 Our Pekin ducklings arrived on Saturday and some of them are already HUGE!

The Khaki Campbell ducklings are doing well and can be moved to their permanent home soon.

The broiler chicks are doing really well. We were expecting more issues since they are a commercial breed but they have actually done really well so far.

  And of course, we're still moving the sheep around.

And the bulls...

  And the yearling steers and heifers...

And the cows and calves...

And don't forget ol' 14. She's still hanging in there.

I've had two equipment failures while trying to lift her up twice a day but I hope she will make some good progress this weekend. 

 Jamie's been working hard on the garden.

Here are her strawberries!

Did I mention the turbine was hit by lightning AGAIN! My renewable energy dealer/repairman thought I was joking. He said that has never happened. Luckily, I know how to take it down now. So I lowered it last night but I still have to wait for the part, now that the wind is blowing like crazy today...

See that little white thing. That's what needs replaced...



Farmer Jon here - After the first cow calved, I came out the next morning to find #14 on the ground with a live calf and a dead calf nearby. She had twins! But only the one was still alive by the time I got there. To make matters worse, #14 couldn't stand up. So we called the vet and he gave her various things to help but nothing worked. He left us with a hip clamp to help get her on her feet. We don't have a loader(front scoop) for our tractor so our wonderful neighbors were kind enough to come over to help. 

We got her up but she couldn't support herself. Something was wrong with that right rear leg. Probably a pinched nerve or something. We stayed out there for a couple hours but she still wasn't any better. So they left the tractor for me to use the next day. 

 The next day I got her up again but still no luck. This went on for a couple more days before I finally got her on a trailer and brought her back to the farmyard.

  A certain someone wouldn't stay out of the way of the tractor so I put her somewhere safe.

I put #14in the granary so that I could hoist her up multiple times a day without needing a tractor.

And then...

A couple days later...

She can walk!

 Of course, that meant she walked away from my hoist.

 So I tried to lift her up with the closest things I could find.
Attempt #1

Attempt #2. I actually had her up but then the hip clamp slipped off and she fell down.

I eventually realized that I could put the bale spear on the back of my tractor and it would lift her just high enough that she could stand up.

I'm glad she's doing better but I sure hope she can stand on her own soon. This is going to get old in a hurry!

We sold the calf to a nice family down the road because we didn't have time to bottle feed a calf and the momma needs to conserve all her energy for getting better rather than producing milk. It was fun to have a pet calf for those few days but selling her was the right decision for us.



TGIM!!!  Or in other words, Thank Goodness It's Monday...that may sound silly to everyone else who likes Fridays, but I feel like my Mondays are my Fridays.  Our weekends have been so jam packed with me finishing up my Community Crops class, having friends and family over who generously babysit Clara and trying to actually get a garden going.  Mondays are a chance for me to breath, take a step back and actually slow down a little bit.  And of course, get caught up on laundry...which never goes away...

I guess I never thought how hard it was going to be to actually start a garden with a baby...and boy have I learned my lesson!  I can't do it all anymore, which is difficult for me to swallow since I'm such a Type A, give it 110% type of person.  I don't think I realized that about myself until I moved out to the farm.  I was looking through all of my old pictures and I found one really good example.

Here are a couple of pictures of my cover cropping attempts:

Why yes...that is my old backyard!  And yes, I was that crazy home gardener that was attempting to cover crop for weed suppression in her backyard.  I won't even tell you how many crazy looks I got going around town trying to find cover crop seed.  I finally found buckwheat and clover at Earl May and I spread it over my raised beds.  It's so funny, because this was way back in the summer of 2010 and we hadn't even thought of actually giving farming a full time trial.  It shows what a person can do if they are determined.  And it totally worked, by the way.  Buckwheat is a great weed suppressor since it's such a fast growing plant.  I let it grow until it flowered and then had Jon hit it with the weed eater and tilled it into the ground.  Not too shabby, huh?


you and me go plantin' in the dark

Farmer Jon Here - Lots of happenings on Open Sky Farm. We're brooding just under 100 chicks and ducklings with more on the way in the next couple days. We have 16 new piglets. We're rotationally grazing the cattle and sheep and working on the Pastured Pig Paradise (more info coming soon). And the gardening is in full swing. We're also trying to get things set up for selling at the Old Cheney Road Farmer's Market this year. Some of which are more fun then others: getting insurance = not fun, having our freezer's inspected by the state = not so much fun, ordering banners = fun.

We were working hard to plant 400 strawberry plants before it rained the other night. Jamie finished the last couple rows in the dark working by the light of a headlamp but we got them in.

 We even had our first calf of the season today! It's always fun to see what each new calf looks like!

But all those happenings haven't kept us from having a little fun.

And of course by "having a little fun" I mean pulling step in posts out of the pond after the water level rose a few feet.


Lake Open Sky

Wow, Saturday was a wild weather ride!  We were very lucky to scrape by with the weather we did, it could have been much worse.  We did get some very strong winds and about 2 inches of rain that came down very quickly and the ground was not able to soak it all up.  Hence Lake Open Sky!

I'm sure our newly weaned calves were wondering how they got themselves into this mess.

Our pond by the driveway was so full that the water was rushing around the edge of the dam. 

Here's the water going around the dam. And off of our farm... :(

My garden got washed out a little bit and some newly planted potatoes were uncovered.  Not too bad though!  Like I said, the weather could have been much worse and my heart goes out to those who were affected by tornadoes.  Spring weather in Nebraska can be so scary sometimes...

Some benefited from the excess water more than others...



Yesterday was magical...

Some days a person can think too much.  When a person starts to think too much, life gets overwhelming...that was me yesterday.  I needed some time to get out of my head.  And thank goodness yesterday was magical...

The grass was so lush after our recent downpours and the sun was just right on the horizon.  It made for great lighting that I don't think I quite captured in my quick photo shooting.

I felt so much better after walking around outside for a little bit, just breathing in the spring air.  I would have been outside a little longer, but one little stinker kept trying to practice her new skills and throw the camera to the ground...


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