Tag Archives: Provenance Farm

Farming in June

It’s always a splendid idea to move residences just as farm season ramps up for the summer.  I have done it three times now.  You’d think we’d learn.  Needless to say, it’s been a busy month but we are having all sorts of fun!

This is sort of a photo-dump but here’s what has been going on at the farm in the last week:

 

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We’ve been breeding cows (artificially inseminating) up at Carol’s ranch.  She selects good bulls for sires and hires someone to come AI the cows. The Spring 2014 calf crop is percolating as we speak!

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The weather has been nice, so our broiler chicks have been heading out to pasture at precisely two weeks of age.  They still have their fluffy chick down, but they much prefer being on grass to being in the brooder.  They really forage a lot even at this age.

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We have been happy to see the variety of grass and forb, species that are coming up in the fertilized area behind our broiler pens.  Now that there’s been a bit of rain there is quite the diverse landscape. This is a picture of selfheal (prunella vulgaris) in bloom.

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We are even seeing some wild strawberries (fragaria virginiana) ! They are tinier than the tip of a finger, but they look just as delicious as their domestic counterparts.

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Emmie picked a fight with a tougher dog than herself and ended up with a few war wounds.  She was bedridden for a few days but the first sign of life was her intense desire to go with me to the farm when I’d put on my boots in the morning.  She can’t stand being left on the sidelines while I’m working.  It’s been said of Border Collies that each dog has the energy of a small nuclear reactor.  That’s very much true of this one.  I’m glad she bounced back quickly. I hadn’t realized how attached I’d become to my sidekick til I had to do chores without her.

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We’ve been making hay up at the ranch.  I have been assigned baling duty.  I straight-up love it.   It’s hot, the dust makes me itch and sneeze,  the baler is old, and the fields are rugged.  But the scenery is terrific!  We’re making hay in the foothills of the Coastal range, with covered bridges and vineyards and rivers on every side.  I’d rather be out there making hay on a sunny weekend than doing pretty much anything else in the whole wide world.

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Carol and James first cut the grass down with a swather.  The swather incorporates a conditioner (or crimper) which crunches the grass a little bit to make it dry faster.

Then they come along with a “tedder”, which has tines that fluff up the hay and accelerate the drying process.  Getting the hay to dry quickly is important in the Willamette Valley where mornings have lots of dew and it could rain at any moment.

The next step is raking the hay into windrows.  This puts the grass in nice, straight lines so that the baler can pick it up.  Raking also helps with drying, as it turns the grass and fluffs it up to get more airflow.

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We check the grass by hand and with a moisture meter and when it’s dry enough, we fire up the baler and I get to work.

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James comes along behind me with the bale wagon and scoops up the bales.  When he gets a full stack, he drives up to the barn and and deposits them for the winter.  

And with that, I’m off to go bale some more hay.  We are expecting rain in the early part of the week, so we’re getting it up as fast as possible.

 

 

 

 

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C’mon Little Chicks!

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The brooder is all set up – shiny new heat lamps are installed, an overhead automatic watering system is in place, mason jars waterers are filled, feeders are set out.

Now where are the chicks?!

My hatchery in California tells me that my 600 Cornish-Cross babies are enroute but transit has been taking two days instead of one.  I’m imagining fluffy yellow chicks standing in long TSA lines at the airport.  It makes me laugh so I don’t worry too much.  I am looking forward to getting them out of their boxes and into their plush new living quarters!

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Paddock Shift

As I alluded to on Facebook this weekend, big changes are in the works for Provenance Farm. No, we’re not expecting.  Geez people! Asking such prying questions up in here!

I won’t keep you in suspense any longer…Image

 

I’m moving the farm and starting my venture into cattle ranching!

Starting this week, I’m packing up broiler pens and all my farm equipment and heading for the new location of Provenance Farm.  Our friends Stu and Carol Hemphill have asked me to run broilers on some of their nutrient-deficient pastures of their 400+ acre cattle ranch just west of Philomath.  I jumped at the chance because I’ve been an ardent admirer of Carol for a few years now.  She has been raising high quality grass-fed Angus beef cattle for over 30 years.  I’ve been privileged to buy stocker steers and heifers from her for the last few years, finishing them on my own pasture for the latter months of their lives.  The excellent beef you have enjoyed from our farm is primarily due to the hard work and dedication of Carol Hemphill long before I came into the picture.  I’ve often told Keith, “When I ‘grow up’, I want to be just like Carol.” There just aren’t many women ranchers out there, and even fewer with the intelligence, education, animal savvy and dedication to quality that Carol has.  I’ve been eagerly following her for a while now, gleaning any knowledge I can from her wealth of experience.  To say that I’m thrilled to be farming in collaboration with her would be a humongous understatement. Broilers and layers are awesome but cattle ranching is in my blood and it’s the reason I chose farming as my life’s work.

 

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So, many things will be changing around here but at the same time it will mostly be the same.  We will be growing and processing as many broilers as we did last year, if not more.  They’ll be raised on the rolling hills of the Hemphill ranch, high above the Mary’s River and out of the mud (hallelujah! – can you hear the angels sing?!).  The pastures we’ll start on will be the most needy ones – fields that can use a hearty dose of chicken fertilizer.

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Our beef cattle will be finished in the same fields in which they were born.  If you don’t know how rare and wonderful that statement is, you haven’t been paying much attention to the way the US beef industry works.  It makes me unbelievably happy to know my cattle have had a good, stress-free life, so I’m really excited about this.

I’ll be raising lambs at the ranch as well.  We’ve had such a great demand for our lamb in the last few years, that our flock was rapidly outgrowing the space available at our current acreage.  Our sheep will have plenty of room to graze up at the Hemphill’s place.

Our laying hen flock will be staying at our Fern Road location for the current time. The hens are just beginning to lay consistently and moving them would cause them stress.  Stress always affects production and so I’m keeping them in their current place for the rest of the year.  We look forward to settling them in at the new ranch in the future, as their current location is subject to floods from the Mary’s River in the winter.

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Local customers will be happy to know that they can still find our eggs and chicken at the Fern Road farm stand, and that’s not going to change!

There are lots of big things happening around here this year and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous, overwhelmed and scared to death at times.  But I also love the adventure and the chance to learn and grow and make this farm (and my life) something worth being proud of.  There’s something so satisfying about hard work and new goals.

 I look forward to sharing the adventure of this upcoming year with you all in person and on these pages.

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Would you like to learn more about our new digs?  Check out a few of my friend Camille’s blog posts about the Hemphill Ranch here:

http://waywardspark.com/feeding-cows-in-winter-at-hemphill-angus/

http://waywardspark.com/april-with-stu-and-carol-hemphill-anguscoast-range-forest-products/

http://waywardspark.com/pasture-with-carol-hemphill-angus/

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February 20, 2013 · 2:26 pm

Em-dizzle

She has learned new tricks.

They are far beneath her dignity.

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Emmie Loves Herding Chickens

Emmie’s absolute favorite activity is herding chickens.  We never taught her how to do it, she just came built with that amazing border collie instinct. She was clever enough to figure out the process of paddock moves very quickly. She knows that as soon as we fire up the tractor and open the feathernets it is time for the birds to move from the old area into the new area.  The chickens know it too and they do a pretty good job of running straight for the fresh grass.  We move their hoophouses with the tractor and the chickens follow along.  There are always a few stragglers however and in this video there were a lot of dawdlers because we were moving them a long distance across a low-lying area that had become filled with 6 inches of rainwater. They were taking their sweet time, and I made Emmie wait for a few minutes so most of the chickens could get across on their own. She’s very obedient but as you can see, she hates to have to take a break from herding.  She never “talks” likes this unless she wants to herd the chickens.

Emmie herds fast and furiously but she almost never hurts the chickens.  Occasionally she gets frustrated at a wayward bird that won’t go the right direction and she tries to drag it by its wing.  I’m always there to step in and call her off though.

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A Day in the Life of a Farmer (Winter Edition) – Thursday

I know you’ve all been waiting on the edge of your seat for the next installment of “A Day in the Life…”.  Well, without further ado…

7:00 : Alarm goes off and I get up and make coffee and clean the kitchen. Blog a bit.

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8:30 : Head over to the farm. Feed the laying hens and collect the eggs – chores I should have done last night but I ran out of daylight.  The hens are hungry and half the pullets have escaped their enclosure and made their way across the field in desperation when they heard my 4-wheeler coming. Emmie and I catch/herd them all back toward their paddock.  This takes a while.  I feel bad for letting them get hungry.  It affects their egg-laying when they don’t wake up to hot coffee and a warm breakfast.

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10:00 : Wash the eggs I just collected and package them.  I distribute some to our little self-service farm store because we always sell out quickly.  The rest go in cases for Portland restaurants/bakeries.  Talk to Fritz about my cold hands and lack of dry gloves situation.  He suggests I dry my non-waterproof gloves next to the furnace in the wood shop every night.  The man is a genius!

11:00 : Dig coolers out of the barn loft and start sorting frozen chicken out for Portland restaurant orders.

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12:00 : Home for lunch. I eat more leftover chicken enchiladas than I probably should and then top it off with homemade guac and pita chips.  I watch a bunch of SNL skits on YouTube and chat with Keith at work.  It becomes clear to me that I am stalling because I don’t really want to get in the car and drive to Portland.  I get so bored driving!

1:30 : Convince myself I better quit wasting time and so I start the trek to the Big City.  I’m listening to East of Eden by John Steinbeck on audiobook.  This is my favorite book of all time and I hang on every word of it.  I think I could live on nothing but Steinbeck for the rest of my life, he’s that good.  Hyperbole aside, I make it to Portland in good time, stopping only at Starbucks in Woodburn for a little afternoon perk-me-up.  Coffee makes the world go ’round.

Deliveries go well.  I’m selling Cornish Game Hens weekly to a sweet new restaurant in the Pearl District called The Parish. I haven’t eaten there yet, but I’m dying to.  Oysters!  Red Beans!  Chicken-fried! They make absolutely everything from scratch –  and it’s fun to hang out in their kitchen and watch the prep happen.  One of the best parts of being a farmer is getting to walk through the back doors of some of the nicest restaurants in town and chat with the chefs while I unload my products.  I always love to hear how they plan to serve my chicken or lamb.  It feels good to know that such accomplished chefs are working their magic with the meat I’ve raised on my own little farm.  It’s worth the drive to spend that time interacting with the chefs and kitchen staff.

4:00 : I’m back from Portland, unloading the coolers and unpacking the car in a hurry before the light fades. I feed another flake of hay to my fat little spoiled heifer who stands at the gate bawling.  I call her The Pet because she has been following me around like a lost puppy every since the rest of her herd got sent to the butcher.  It’s probably not such a good idea to name your cow that has a date with her Maker on the 21st, though.

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I feed the layers again and collect the eggs.  Emmie tears around the field like a lightening bolt, as per her usual routine.

6:00 : Off to the HOTV Social Run.  Keith hosts this every week. We run 5-7 miles and then meet at a local brewpub for a pint or two afterward.  It’s pretty freaking fabulous!

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7:45 : Coffee date at the Beanery with a girlfriend.  We stay there late and close the joint down.  Party animals.

11:30 : Head hits the pillow and I’m out like a light.

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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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