Tuesday, August 31, 2010

ready to sell beef

For four years now we have been growing our little herd of Galloway cross cattle and experimenting with different pastures and processing, and even a couple different breeds of cattle. Overall, we have been very happy with the beef that we have produced. It was when we butchered our first Galloway though that we really knew we had something great to offer people. I have never been a big proponent of healthful, grass-fed beef to be honest with you. My experience of grass-fed beef came about in the 90's with the influx of New Zealand beef in the grocery stores....ughh, it was inedible. But, Cindy kept on and on about grass-fed beef and how healthy it was and we did a lot of research on different ways to make it taste nothing at all like NZ pasture raised beef. Thank goodness.

The beef we are producing now is so good that I find going to a restaurant to order a steak a complete waste of time. Juicy is the first word that comes to mind with our Galloway beef. Even well done, as my parents prefer their steaks, it is very succulent. There is a slightly different beef taste, but it is in the same way that our pastured pork is different...it is amazingly different! It tastes like beef!

So, now we have one steer ready to process this fall. One and only one. We will need some beef for our own freezer but I have decided to offer the other half to potential customers in the form of sampler sized Beef Boxes. These will be approximately 50lbs each and will be comprised of a variety of steaks, premium lean ground and roasts. Trust me, you will want the roasts! Amazing.

We will keep the cuts on the small size in order to give everyone as many different cuts as possible to try out. Next year, we will have at least two full steers to process and that beef will be available in bulk and cut to your exact specifications. Prices for next year will be determined later.

So, if you care to try some Galloway, grass-fed beef that has been grow using Organic standards please check out our Beef Sales page and give us a call. We can deliver in mid-november to a central location in Edmonton, Red Deer and Calgary. There will be very few of these boxes available for 2010. No need to send money now, just call to order and ask me any questions you like and bring a cheque with you on the delivery date that we set.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

more good news

For the first time in history wild plants with modified genes have been discovered in North America. This is exactly what opponents of gene modification have been warning about and it is only the beginning of our tribulations with gene modification.

what the?

This post is going to fall under the "if you aren't outraged, you aren't paying attention" addage. I am not sure how I stumbled across this company Cascadian Farms, but I did and it sure caught my eye. I was thinking what a tremendous job they had done on their site, what great marketing and professionalism. Then I looked at their vast array of prepared food products and the supposed location of the farm. I also noticed the subtle wording in the farm's description. The farm is situated on 28 acres yet they sell an amazing selection of products around the entire United States? Something wasn't adding up. I did a few searches and came across this...

Cascadian Farm, a Sedro-Woolley, WA-based unit of Small Planet Foods, in turn under the ownership of General Mills Inc., has launched Cascadian Farm Organic Chewy Granola Bars. The three-variety line features Fruit & Nut, a mix …

It just goes to show that consumers need to be aware of where they buy their products from and to what extend the huge Monsanto's of the world will go to trick you into buying their products. I cannot imagine that many busy moms are out shopping and have the time to look up who actually owns Cascadian Farms. So there you go. Now I guess this isn't horrible. The products are organic, but these huge companies that are now in the organic food market are the ones that lobby and pressure governments to reduce the requirements to become organic. General Mills, with their vast resources of money will be the first ones in line to have organic certification requirements relaxed so that their "farms" can become ever more profitable. 

All I ask is that people please support your local farmers wherever practical. Nothing good in this world comes from big-business...that's about all I know for sure. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

heritage barley trials

This year, with the move and everything, I was only able to plant two very small plots of heritage grains. They are both barley varieties. The top picture is the Tibetan Barley. It did remarkably well this year. The heads are full and it stood up well to some of the downpours and high winds we experienced. If this were in a large field, it would have yielded very well indeed.

The barley below is Purple Barley. I believe it is also of Tibetan decent. It did not perform nearly as well as the Tibetan. The heads are small, short. The kernels look nice and plump though and are indeed purple. It doesn't show up in the picture, but you can see the purple colour within the hull. As you can see it did lodge quite a bit in the summer storms. If this crop was in a larger field, it would not look very good at all and would be difficult to harvest. I am encouraged to keep up with the trials of the Tibetan variety. I will also propagate the purple stuff and see if I can't get a better variety over the years.

beautiful morning in the pasture

I missed the best light this morning, it was just beautiful though. Quite chilly at 8C, but the cows were lounging; quietly chewing cud and resting for a day of grazing. Skipper was giving me the stink eye in this picture. I am always a little cautious around him. These are his girls after all and I can imagine him getting aggressive when called upon. I always get after him when he postures to me, but I would always prefer to avoid a confrontation if given the choice. Skipper belongs to friends of ours, but he has spent a good portion of his life with our little herd. We take care of him and share him with another bigger cattle farmer in exchange for his services. Bulls are dangerous animals...we've been to rodeos and have seen what they are capable of. The white faced cow belongs to friends of ours and is on our farm with her 2009 calf. We have tons of pasture and hay so we offered to take care of them this year while they fix fencing. Our friends live in an acreage subdivision and only have the two cows.

This is "Henny". She is the first cow we ever owned. Henrietta is now almost 8 years old I believe, but she is in tremendous health and always delivers us a healthy calf. We have never attended any of her calving events. Henny is a Galloway/Highland cross. One of the calves in the picture is hers...I think it is the closest one. The back one belongs to my favorite cow "Missy". Henny's calves are always the psychos of the herd...constantly escaping whenever the chance presents itself and wild. Missy on the other hand, along with her calves, are very placid and tame...the labotomized cattle. They always come up for a back scratch and are very affectionate. Missy's 2009 calf is "Miley" and she will be bred by Skipper this year. This year both Henny and Missy had bull calves...lots of meat in the freezer next fall. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

trusses on...almost

We have one more day of work left to install the trusses. As you can see most of them are in place. Double hurricane straps will be installed on each end of all trusses and the end trusses need to be installed. Hopefully, the sheathing will commence tomorrow so we can stop worrying about rain! We have the bale walls tarped as well as we possibly can, but there is still an uneasy feeling whenever we hear the tapping of rain on our trailer roof.

Yesterday we had friends of ours drop off their two cows to be bred by the bull "Skipper". He arrived last week and immediately started to show off for the girls. A whole lot of bellering and pawing of dust...it was quite a show. Then the neighbors cows and bulls took notice and for two days and nights at least they were bawling and moaning to each other. Luckily, they are separated by almost half a mile. Otherwise there would have been wrecked fences and cowtastrophe.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

straw bale raising pictorial

Here some pictures from this past weekend. The bale walls look  fairly wonky prior to the top plate going on. Once the top plate is installed and the tensioning takes place the walls are rock solid and level and plumb. Today, the guys are busy tensioning the walls and preparing the walls to accept the trusses.
Below, you can see Lorie busy tying custom length bale for the spaces in the walls that require off-sized bales.
Cousins Mike and Brett busy at the "Bale Raising".

Pounding 3' bamboo stakes...2 per bale. Holy Fred Flinstone impersonation!
Below shows the walls at the beginning of the tensioning stage. At only 10% tension, the walls were noticeably solid and much straighter. Full tension will make them rock solid and then 2" of concrete inside and out will make the house like a bunker.
I have skipped a lot of detail. If you have any questions, please post a comment. Thank you for reading my blog. Cheers!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

straw bale raising pending!

Well, it looks as though everything will be in place for us to be able to have our "strawbale raising" party this weekend. Work is still underway with the base building assembly and the top building assembly and the window and door bucks. That should be completed by Friday. The actual bales are scheduled to go up on Saturday and Sunday. We seem to have a good amount of help at the ready so it will be a lot of fun to have friends and family actually helping with the construction of our new home. We will be sure to take plenty of pictures and maybe some video of the event. It will look like a different place by this time next week! Stay tuned.

Monday, August 09, 2010

summer hail = plow down

Almost all of our organic buckwheat was lost to hail in this one field. It is too bad, because I have a good market for buckwheat and this was worth some money. On the plus side though, this field will be much cleaner next year due to the summer fallow work that we are now forced to do. Here the little IH 766 is hooked up to the small JD disc and we are almost finished working under the buckwheat. The rye on the right looks untouched by hail. Buckwheat is apparently extremely susceptible to hail damage and is not insurable.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

summer 2010 crop tour - peas

These are Certified Organic Peas. These peas were sown into this field with the hopes of being a clean crop that we could harvest. Worst case scenario would have been that they came up dirty with weeds and we would have plowed them in as a legume plow-down. They came up beautifully though and it will be a bumper crop of peas for us. They will be used for human consumption in Split Pea Soup or Pea Butter or used for other organic farmers who need organic pea seed for next spring.

summer 2010 crop tour - oats

A nice crop of organic oats for 2010. Actually, these oats will be considered "transitional" oats as the land that they are grown on is not yet certified organic. They are being grown organically, but it takes three years to transition the land into Certified Organic status. A very nice crop for this year...these are "Rodney" Oats.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

construction update end of july

So here is where we were at with construction of our straw bale house at the end of July, 2010. As you can see the garage has been up for some time now. All of our household stuff is being stored in there and it fits! That means that we have downsized all of our crap that we feel we no longer require in our lives. Stuff that bogs us down and certainly has no place in our new house which will be half the size of our old place. I still cannot get over what a good feeling it is to simplify things even just a little.

As you can see the slab is prepped and the plumbing is in place for our hot water heating system and potable water. As I type this on August 3 the concrete has been poured and materials are on-site for the wall construction to commmence this week. I will post some pics of that process. This is where it finally gets a little interesting and begins to look like something a little out of the ordinary. 

At the start of the bale assembly construction, the measurements are taken on the slab and the wood bale bearing assemblies (BBA) are constructed. Next, the window and door bucks are built. Towards the end of the week, the bales will be delivered and the final plans will be made to build the walls by placing bales. This all has to be timed for good weather, the arrival of the trusses and the crew to roof the house. Once the bale walls are in place, they cannot get wet! 

time for a holiday

Back in the beginning of July we had a chance to get away for a few days. The Boy had a volleyball camp in Jasper, Alberta and so we stayed at a local campground while he spent his days playing volleyball in town. It was great fun to just hang out and do nothing much. We spent some time at the Miette Hot Springs, did some sight-seeing and some shopping and just tried to relax a bit. I thought you might enjoy some pictures of Alberta.

we're still farming too you know...

Even though all of our efforts seem to be focused on building the new farm we still have farming activities ongoing. The cows have all calved out now...for us that only means three of them. But still, it is the beginning of our little herd of Galloways. This year we lost the first calf...from our heifer. We simply lost him...looked for days. The other two, more experienced cows had no problems and delivered two healthy boys. These two along with our 1 year old steer mean that we have no short supply of beef in the coming years. Right now our freezer is empty and he is starting to look mighty tasty out in our pasture. The two little guys are very cute and now that they are around a week old you can see them playing with each other from the distance. Running and bucking and driving moms nuts with their head butts to the udder at feeding time. Calving season is a fun time of year for us. 

We are also still producing wheat berries and flour on a weekly basis. I love this picture. This is what I view on a regular basis as I get told what I am doing wrong. It looks like Mrs. S is giving me a piece of her mind...I forget what she was talking about, but she wasn't angry. You can see the mill in the background and our little milling room where we mill flour and weigh and package. It is actually a relaxing activity away from the tedium of building and planning. Here, Cindy is just applying the labels to the bags that I have filled and sealed.