February 28, 2006 – Fast Seed

The seed I ordered the other day from Albert Lea Seed House has already arrived.

They have a good selection of organic and regular seeds for pasture and small grains and are very fast. I even like the packaging with the custom-sewed bags and handwritten labels on the bags. So, tomorrow it looks like frost seeding begins.

February 27, 2006 – Kids

Well, after being gone for a few days, it’s time for a fresh look at the kids.
Claire has a new doo and grows up more each day!

Emma’s last basketball game was Saturday and today she picked up the bat.

Martin, is, just Martin – wearing his favorite pair of mismatched boots, maybe, just maybe on the right foot today (or not).

Had the first grilling of the season today. Got the mulch unloaded from the truck and hauled some brush to the burn pile. Ordered an incubator so we can raise our own laying hens and some red and Ladino clover, and trefoil for a little frost overseeding in the pasture.

February 26, 2006 – Replacement Composter Done

I drove home this morning, so after unpacking and the like, didn’t have too much time for farming, other than taking a walk around the farm with Linda looking at it with slightly new eyes, finishing the household composter, and getting a small load of mulch from the pallet plant.

I tired of driving on the interstate on the way home, so I got off at hwy 20 and started zipping south and east on county roads for diversion. I was really struck with two things – all the hog confinements and the rural poverty. I don’t know if it just looks worse in this brown season – or if it was the contrast between the overflowing life of the conference attendees and their hope for a self-directed future and the run-down and abandoned farmsteads. It made me sad that forces have run so many off the land and that an alternative exists that many have yet to try/are unable to try.

February 25, 2006 – Conference Day 2

After I go to these conferences, there are so many things I want to try and so many things still to learn. Since noon yesterday I went to a session on starting a grassfed beef herd, from a third year farmer and a company that buys 100% grassfed beef. It’s all genetics, great forage, and management!

Next up was a small ruminant course. Lots of good health information and little tricks to try, especially regarding parasites. When in an active breeding program, the speaker said most farmers find that with 5-6 years, after selecting for qualities important for your farm, problems with animal health and vigor almost disappear. A common phrase in both sessions was “sending them down the road” meaning that if goats are susceptible to worms, cows like to crash fences, those animals are removed.

I went to see a film by Chris Bedford “What Will We Eat” about the search for local food. Linda and I worked with Chris when he lived in Iowa for a few years running the “Care for Iowa” project. A group is trying to get a referendum on the Michigan ballot to require locally produced, healthy food in public schools. It is predicted the ballot will fail, but will bring a discussion and perhaps help some districts implement it.

The keynote was Michael Ableman who presented an impassioned view of the importance of the interconnection between food, farmers, and community. Micheal started a famous urban organic farm in Santa Barbara CA, many years ago. He also challenged the industrial organic paradigm saying he would rather purchase a conventionally produced head of broccoli from his neighbor than from an organic farm 1500 miles away.

The next sesssion was by Paul Otten, publisher of Northland Berry News. He came across as a very knowledgeable, congenial curmudgeon. He impressed upon us the importance of soil and proper mineral balance above all.

“Farmscaping for beneficial insects” shared lots of fascinating work with trap crops, using bats and owls, perimeter cropping and other things. The presenter has an extensive resource on the ATTRA site on farmscaping plants, pests, etc.

The final session was on growing shittake mushrooms. It’s something I’ve recently thought would be fun and a great addition to market. I’m not sure I could time the fruiting as well as I need to, but will probably try some just to see.

After I have some time to go through my notes and papers, I’m come up with a list of things we are going to try this year as a result of the conference.

February 24, 2006 – Upper Midwest Organic Conference

Today I’m at the Upper Midwest Organic Gardening Conference in La Crosse, WI. I haven’t been to the meeting since it moved from the convent to the convention center. This year over 2,000 people will attend – it truly is nice to be among so many others that share a vision of an environmentally friendly, socially responsible, and economically profitable method of farming an living.

La Crosse is a charming river town – here’s a peek at the street across from the conference center:
On the other end is the Mississippi River.

It was a rather striking view, driving down the valley to the river this morning as the sun rose.

Only one session so far – I went to an organic calf session. Turns out it was more for dairy than beef cows, but still interesting. The keynote was about seed and breed diversity and how organic farmers can help promote seed and breed biodiversity.