Tag Archives: books

Everything is Autumn

Early morning fog, yesterday

We wrapped up broiler season yesterday and now our five chest freezers are stocked full of chicken to supply customers for the rest of the winter.  We raised over 3,000 broiler chickens this year and I think I speak for our entire butcher crew when I say we are happy to take a break for a while.

(Missed the opportunity or want another chance to volunteer?  

We are butchering stewing hens in a couple weeks and  turkeys on November 18 and 19.)

Keith catching broilers

I do love the early morning chores and the chance to watch the sun light up the mist that hangs over the chilly fields.  There is something magical about being out in a pasture, listening to the steady grazing of my heifers and hearing my turkeys gobble as they wake up to sunshine.  Here in western Oregon, though, there is always the knowledge in the back of your mind that these delightful mornings are numbered.  Soon there will be an incessant rain, cold fingers, muddy boots and wet hair that hangs in my eyes.  There are still delights, I just have to look harder to find them.

Sleepy kids on the butcher crew – mirroring the sentiments of the grownups. 

It’s time to slow down for the season, start thinking about putting a pot of homemade chicken noodle soup on the stove and begin making goals for the winter and spring.  I’m looking forward to:

  • Pressing more fresh apple cider
  • Thanksgiving dinner with my beloved family
  • Mad Men season 6.  I don’t know when it will start, but I’m on the edge of my seat!
  • Running more.  Maybe training for something big?
  • Having more time to tackle nagging projects that get put off during summer farm season…like equipment maintenance and fixing fences.
  • Reading the next book club selection which just happens to be written by one of my favorite authors.
  • Our church home group that starts tonight.
  • Going skiing and soaking up some Mt. Bachelor sunshine.

What are you looking forward to as the seasons change?


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Filed under Anecdotes, Project Start a Farm


Yesterday was a blistering 108 degrees in the mid-Willamette Valley, so I betook myself to the OSU Library to borrow some air-conditioned comfort.  While there, I decided to undertake a little project.  I located a bunch of farming books from pre-1959, and settled in to see what I could learn.


See, here’s the deal.  I know all about modern farming.  I have a degree in it.

I have a great appreciation for the advancements in science and knowledge that have augmented farm production in this day and age.  But the more I stop and think about industrial farming, the sadder I become.  There’s something just not quite right about a lot of our methods, and these old forgotten books are helping me put my finger on it.

I cracked open that book up there [Practical Poultry Management by James E. Rice and Harold E. Botsford, copyright 1956]  and was immediately struck by what I read on the first page.  Italics added by yours truly for emphasis.


Brooding is one of the poultryman’s most interesting types of work.  The thrill of placing chicks under brooders and watching them develop is well-nigh universal.

It is cheaper than buying pullets of the same age.  Furthermore, it is more fun.

To such as this, brooding chicks is a joy….

…the end result is likely to be satisfactory to both chicks and attendant.


Every single one of these books speaks of the joy of watching your animals grow healthy and strong.  Doesn’t it seem like that is missing in modern industrial agriculture? I promise you, no one at Tyson Food, Inc. is experiencing much fun or  joy in watching your Chicken McNuggets grow up.

Lest you think these books were written by kooks, I assure you…these are college textbooks published by eminent Cornell agriculture professors of the 1950’s.

Come over to my house and crack open some of my Animal Science textbooks from 2006.  You won’t see a single word about the joy or satisfaction of raising healthy animals.


This handsome book was published in 1895.  [Don’t try to buy it, it’ll set you back $150 these days]

Get a load of this quote!


It may be assumed, therefore, that we do not advocate the keeping of fowls in unhealthy places, and that unless there can be provided a reasonable amount of open space, a light, comfortable, dry and well ventilated house, it is much better to do without the birds altogether, and trust to buying eggs from those who have more favourable opportunities for keeping them. (Profitable Poultry Keeping, Stephen Beale, 1895)


So, you decide.  Which birds look like they are experiencing the more favourable opportunity?



I think it might be time for modern-day farmers to dust off those old textbooks and remember some of the values of the 1950’s.

And in the meantime: trust to buying your eggs [and meat] from those who have more favourable opportunities for keeping them.

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Project Start a Farm

It turns out I am a little bit of a procrastinator and an over-analyzer among other faults.  What I will have you know is this:  I’m skeered to death to start a farm.  I’m afraid of failure and more than that, I’m worried about what you all will think of me.  My natural inclination is to research this project into the ground and resist taking any active steps toward actually beginning.  Eventually I’ll get sick of sitting in my duplex living room reading ‘Ranching for Profit’ information packages, and I’ll go get a unsatisfactory “real job” with some vague tie to agriculture.

So I have decided to give myself a little accountability by posting my fears, failures and succeses on the internet for everyone to see.  Gulp.   You know how you see a successful person and wonder how they got over the “hump” and made their way toward success?  I’d like to document the process of starting a business from square one with the hope and intent that someday I will make it into a successful venture.  Maybe I’ll fail but I have to take a risk, right?


This is what I’m starting out with:

1. A Bachelors of Science degree in Animal Sciences

2. Two years industry experience in row crop farming and processing

3. Four years of experience raising 4-H steers, hogs, sheep, laying hens and llamas (they eat llamas in Peru, so I’m going to go ahead and throw them in there as meat animals, so as to pad my resume).

4. Four years of experience managing a flock of sheep for reproductive physiology research at Oregon State University.

5. A pile of books on pasture-based farming by Joel Salatin, Julius Ruechel, and Greg Judy.

6. A laptop computer for research

7. A strong pot of coffee, fed by intravenous drip.

8. A wild vacillation between debilitating fear of failure and ridiculous “I Can Do It!” optimism.

Please note that nowhere on that list is any more business knowledge than what is required to not overdraw my checking account.

Way Back When

I believe this all began at age 8 when I developed a Bug Business from my home in Toledo, Oregon.  I had a little book of money-making ideas for kids, which I referred to pretty much every day because I suffered from Chronic Boredom/A Need for Constant Stimulation.  Over the years, I utilized my love for organizing other people (some might call it bossiness, but I prefer to think of it as just plain management skills) and roped my siblings and neighborhood kids into my start-up enterprises.   I had a lemonade and popcorn stand on Highway 20 (no slow-paced neighborhood sales for me), a Beneficial Bug Business complete with home delivery via Radio Flyer wagon, a chocolate chip cookie business, and a pie business.  Eventually I graduated to 4-H market animals.  I’m not sure I ever amassed much wealth, but I learned to record profit and expenses in a spiral notebook and how to work up the nerve to knock on doors and market my products.


A few weeks ago I headed down to The Business Enterprise Center in Corvallis to take a class on beginning a business.  It was $10 well spent, learning the preliminary steps required to get a business idea off the ground.  I have a lot of work to do but there is a world of resources out there for entrepreneurs.

I stopped by Afton Field Farms booth at the Corvallis Farmers Market and chatted with Tyler and Alicia.  I got some good advice from them and worked out a time to go visit their operation.  On Monday, I did that and learned a lot.  Most importantly, they assure me that it can be very profitable and it is not an impossible thing for me to undertake.  I got a stack of books from them (See above list of authors), and advice on how look for leasable land.

Today, I worked on establishing my goals for personal life and business.  This is paramount to the success of any business.  Keith and I will go over them tonight and make sure they represent our desires.   I read a bunch of Joel Salatin’s book by the cheesy title of “You Can Farm.”


Don’t worry, I’ll keep you updated with my 30 minute cycles of panic attacks and optimism.  Stay posted.

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Doing Something With My Life

This is for everyone who wonders what I’m doing with my life since I no longer have a J-O-B.  Mostly I just sit around and watch the rain come down.  But occasionally I come up with a brilliant idea and then I sit around and think about it while I watch the rain come down.

This is Project Start a Farm.  (Also known as Project I Guess I Should Use that $75,000 Degree For Something).

The Office

The Office

The idea, thus far, is to lease some land and purchase stocker cattle (300-700 lb weaned calves) and maybe a few sheep for good time’s sake and maybe a couple chickens ’cause everyone knows how much I love poultry.   I’d graze the cattle and finish them and direct-market them as grass-fed beef.  Maybe I’ll grow some turkeys too, for your Thanksgiving pleasure.


So…I think I’ll be in the market for a Ford Pickup and a couple cows pretty soon.

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