Monthly Archives: March 2010

Sheep

The plans are in the works for buying lambs, and I’m getting excited!  I grew up raising sheep, and despite my daydreams of rounding up cattle on horseback, wooly sheep still hold a special place in my heart.

Posing with "Champ" and the winning bidder at the 4-H Livestock Auction

I’m not sure why I love them so much.  There’s just something about those fuzzy little lambs…which quickly turn into pot-bellied bleaters like the one above.

Then they turn into fat paychecks, like the one about to be handed to me by the lady in the blue.  Bless her heart, for fostering those early teenage fantasies that I could do this farm thing for a living.

This year, we will just have weaned lambs which I’ll pasture-finish in the fall.  I am looking forward to starting my own breeding flock soon.  There’s nothing more fun than a crop of bouncing baby lambs in your field!

Here’s an interesting video, featuring John Neumeister of Cattail Creek Farm (just down the road, in Junction City).  He does a good job of describing his goals for high-quality, tasty lamb and for managing different species of livestock for pasture quality.

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Huevos

Taken with my iPhone – TiltShift Generator and Spica Super Monochrome apps

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Chick of the Day

taken with my iPhone

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Springtime Projects: Portable Fencing Step One

With sunny days and temperatures in the mid-60’s, Spring is slowly but surely coming to the Willamette Valley.  Driving through Corvallis today, I fell a little more in love with my town.  The bike paths abounded with families taking lazy Saturday bike rides, runners taking their dogs for a jog, and roller-bladers eating up the 16 miles of multi-use paths around our town.

Apricot blooms from my backyard

Keith and I utilized the good weather to get some work done in preparation for the busy season of the farm.  It won’t be long now before we need to get animals out in the field!  I won’t lie; it’s a little stressful trying to get all the infrastructure in place.  There’s the delicate balance of figuring out how we can pay for it all while still setting aside enough money to buy livestock.

Today’s project was completing the purchase of electric fencing materials for rotational grazing paddocks.  We’ve already bought all the 17 guage aluminum wire, fence insulators and wire reels.  The only remaining item on the list was 3/8″ rebar for 4′  fence stakes.  Our local lumber store sells rebar in 20 foot lengths, and so we took the old pickup downtown and got to work cutting rebar.

Grandad's ranch pickup has been earning its keep -- just look at all the mud on the tires!

Here’s a little secret.  You don’t always have to own all the equipment you will need for doing farm work.  I’ve borrowed tools and vehicles from all my generous friends and neighbors before buying them myself.  Don’t be intimidated by the job because you don’t have the appropriate tools.  If anything, it’s an opportunity to get more creative or to practice old fashioned neighborly tool-sharing.

So, obviously, I don’t own a tool for cutting rebar.  I tried out Tyler’s bolt cutter on a stick of 3/8″ rebar, but it required more muscles (or body weight?) than I could recruit at the time.  That’s a dignified way of saying that I huffed and I puffed but I couldn’t cut the rebar.  And then I took my pride and got my butt back in the weight room at the gym.

But, fortunately the lumber store has a rebar cutter that looks like this, and requires minimal muscle:

It is available for use by the public, as long as you stay out of contractors’ way while you chop rebar. I’m willing to bet that most lumber stores have these on the floor. So, Keith and I got busy and in no time flat, we’d cut 200 four foot rebar fence stakes. Totally do-able, no equipment cost. And that, my friends, is how you get ‘er done!

a pickup load of rebar

For my next trick, I will attempt to set up rotational grazing paddocks with nothing but 17 guage Al wire and some rebar stakes. Stay tuned…

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My Ugandan Counterparts

Anybody who knows me is already aware that I have a major passion for mission and humanitarian work in developing nations.  I think it’s in my blood, as my parents met on the mission field in Nepal in the early ’80s, and I grew up watching slide shows of their overseas adventures.

Someday in the not too distant future, I plan to take these farming skills and do something really worthwhile with them.  I want teach agricultural techniques in the field in developing countries such as the Dominican Republic and Haiti.  I know it would be mostly a learning experience on my part, as many of the things we do here in our priveleged, stable country would be impractical in other parts of the world.  However, I think that one of these days I’ll have something helpful to share with other farmers, and hopefully I’ll have the privilege of doing so.

That being said, I was thrilled to find a great story about Ugandan farmers on the website of Public Radio International. Listen to the broadcast audio story, if you have a minute.  I think you’ll be impressed.

Women in Uganda have figured out that chickens are the ticket to earning a living wage.  From the easy-keeping birds, they are able to produce enough eggs and meat to sell to their communities and local tourist lodges.  Consequently, many women are able to put food on the table and send their kids to school, simple things which are impossible for the impoverished in many countries.

That is what I want to be a part of.  Agriculture is often so simple yet the results are quite literally life-changing.  Don’t you find it fascinating that the Ugandan professor quoted in the story is both a professor of Animal Health and Social Economics?  That speaks volumes!

Pepper farm in La Travesia del Mulo, Dominican Republic

If you are not already supporting an NGO that is dedicated to alleviating poverty on the local level, I heartily encourage you to do so.

A few organizations that I wholeheartedly believe in are listed below.  I support, have served with, visited the headquarters of, and spoken to the directors of each and every organization here.  They are imparting life-changing skills…one chicken egg and one grammar lesson at a time.

T.E.A.R.S. Ministry (Dominican Republic/Haiti) – schools, clean water and churches for impoverished neighborhoods and rural villages

Heifer International (worldwide) – ending hunger & poverty through agriculture

Agros (Central America/Mexico) – creating a sustainable economy through agriculture

Kids Alive (worldwide) – providing for the needs of orphaned and vulnerable children

And I will leave you with this photo of a (very white) Dominican woman, hauling freshly-harvested yuca in a bucket to her mountain home, while the male farmers admire her strength. A testament to the vital part women play in agriculture worldwide.

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