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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...


a herd divided

Farmer Jon here - Well, we finally started the weaning process with the calves. I had to beef up my fencing to (hopefully) keep the calves and cows apart. The actual sorting of the cows and calves went fairly smoothly. I did it by myself, in the pasture. I ended up with one calf that is still with the cows but the rest of the calves have all been sorted off. I left the two bulls, a heifer and a cow that was open last year with the calves to help calm them down. After a few weeks, I'll pull the bulls out so there aren't any shenanigans. The heifer calves won't be a year old for another 45-60 days so I'm not too concerned.

Of course, many think we're crazy for waiting so long to wean. And many think we're crazy for waiting so long to leave the bulls in. And many think we're crazy for waiting so long to castrate the bull calves. But, so far, the cattle are all alive and well. Crazy...

(sorry, I was taking pictures with my cellphone again...)


the honeymoon's over

Farmer Jon here, I happened across an article the other day called Top 10 reasons small businesses fail. I thought it would be a good refresher of things not to do. Instead it was a wake up call. I felt like we, to some extent, were guilty of probably six to eight of those ten! I'm no expert but I don't think that's good. The good news is, I'm fairly confident we will still succeed but only if we fix some of the things mentioned in the article.

The biggest problem, in our case, was emotion. We were too emotionally attached to everything, which led to poor business decisions based solely on emotion. I think being emotionally invested in your business is very important (especially if you are a farmer) but I think we were TOO invested. Or at the very least, we were just focusing that emotion in the wrong areas. I've already delved into this topic on multiple occasions: balance & rocky mountain oysters. But I feel like I've officially made the change in mindset. It's not a drastic change but it is a different way of thinking that needed to happen. "So what does that mean?", you might ask. Well, I'll tell you:

1. We continue with what we've started in regards to putting together a good inventory and accounting system that we can stick to and that we can quickly and easily extrapolate valuable information that we can use in making business decisions. For instance, right now I can't tell you exactly how much we'd need to make off of each hog to break even. How am I supposed to make money if I don't know what my break even point is on something? I can't.

2. Once we have those systems in place, we need to evaluate each enterprise and determine which offer the most profit for the amount of time and resources spent. If they all make sense to keep, that's fine, but if not, it needs to be eliminated from our operation or changes need to be made to make it profitable.

3. Re-evaluate our goals based on the conclusions of 1 & 2.

The rest will come with time, as we follow through with the changes mentioned above. It's funny how they all tie together. Our "poor accounting" is inhibiting our ability to determine whether "the math works" and/or what our "operational inefficiencies" are. I also think that our "out of control growth" led to a lack of a "cash cushion" and "operational mediocrity" due to being spread to thin. All of which link directly to "dysfunctional management" and the root cause for all of this stems back to some poor decisions based on our emotions which I think qualifies as "owners who cannot get out of their own way".


spring has sprung

Farmer Jon here - For a while there mother nature appeared to be skipping straight to summer but, thankfully, we are back to feeling like a spring. And just in time for all the spring happenings!

We just received our baby chicks yesterday.

 All three sows farrowed a total of 19 piglets!

Jamie is working hard to get the garden ready.


The asparagus has been growing like crazy for over a week.

We even officially started the grazing season today by putting the cattle out on a new paddock.
I have the day off and Jamie decided to pick up a shift at work, so Clara and I moved the cattle.

Clara had a lot of fun but she's not much help. She was asleep before I even got down to the cattle!


Pressure cooking roosters

So, remember all of our roosters?  They were still in my freezer from when we had them butchered.  And with all of our meat that we were processing, it was high time that I learned how to cook them.

Roosters are a very different meat from the broilers that you would get in the store.  First, they have very thin breasts and lots of dark meat.  Dark meat is a fast twitch tissue, so it's normally found in the wings, thighs and legs.  I am personally not a huge fan of dark meat.  Nor am I a big fan of eating meat off the bone or deboning chicken.  I can slaughter a chicken no problem...but when it comes time to shred the meat off the bones...yuck!  That's Jon's job now, he can eat as much as he wants as long as he gets all the meat off.  Don't we make a good couple?

My first time cooking a rooster, I tried the crock pot.  Fail....even after leaving it on all day on high.  The dark meat was still very stringy and the bird did not fall apart at all.  Next, I tried in my dutch oven...fail...exact same thing.  So, then I got to googling.  And I really couldn't find anything on how to cook this dang birds!

Finally I got a flash of genius!  Pressure cooking!  I had bought a pressure cooker/canner with my birthday money last year (yup...I am truly geeky, I also bought other canning supplies as well as books on canning and cheesemaking).  My original intent was to pressure can black beans and pinto beans, because I never remembered to set out beans the night before and I was trying to avoid BPA in canned goods.  Eden Organic foods is great company that has already taken the step of taking out BPA in all of their canned goods.  I try to stock up on Eden canned goods when they are on sale because they are a little bit more expensive.  So worth it though!

This was my set up.  I pressured cooked 13 birds in about a day and a half.  And boy was I sick of shredding chicken!  Pressure cooking actually worked really well.  Especially as the day went on, because I didn't drain the liquid from the canner each time so more and more good broth was helping to cook the roosters faster. I was a little nervous as this was my first time pressure cooking and I really didn't want to cause an explosion.  I just carefully read the instructions and went for it!  I did pressure cook them for 15 minutes instead of the recommended 10 since some of my birds were still slightly frozen.  I packed the meat into quart sized freezer bags and now I have 13 bags of ready to cook chicken.  Now THAT is the ultimate convenience food!  Healthy and ready to go!


Sheep in the backyard

Did you know we have seven lawnmowers?  Here they are!

They do a pretty good job, although they haven't acquired a taste for certain weeds.  We may have to actually end up mowing weeds, but they do a good job with the grass!

I think they were plotting their break out in this pictures...caught ya!

How's that door taste?  Better than grass?

We haven't moved them fully out yet on pasture, just to the backyard for several reasons.  We haven't set up good tight fence yet.  And we've been having lots and lots of coyotes in our neighborhood.  Since it's been so nice outside, we have had our windows open.  And boy oh boy are coyotes loud at 1:00 in the AM!  I looked out my window as soon as I heard them one morning and could have sworn they would be in our backyard since they were so loud.  Jon even got on the four wheeler with a spotlight and shotgun to see if he could take care of a few.  No luck, but it does make me a little nervous to put the sheep out by themselves in the pasture.  We either need to get a guardian dog, put them with the cattle or bring them back to an enclosed area at night.  But we all know our luck with dogs....

Why yes, that is a pool noodle wrapped around my dog's neck!  Why in the world would a dog have a pool noodle around his neck?

So, he doesn't rip out his new stitches, of course!

Hopefully this experience will teach him not to mess with a heifer who has horns....


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