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Don't Do Chores in the Dark

(Way) TL;DR: Don't do chores at night. Blindness everywhere. I do my best to break everything on the farm.
 
This is long, but I haven't gotten the chance to write one of these for a while, and I think tonight's experience is worthy. At the very least, I'll have it for future reminiscing.
 
What a crazy, craptastic, spectacular rollercoaster of a night! I spent the last few days in Dubuque at the Red Devon USA Conference which was beyond my already very high expectations. I had the privilege of hearing multiple experts talk about soil health, grass-fed beef, marketing, and a multitude of other topics. Fantastic is an understatement! Frankly, I was overwhelmed with the quality and quantity of knowledge that was at this event and being shared, but it helped to add to my knowledge and skillset and really reaffirm that what I'm doing at the farm is the way of the future. I just need to keep grinding and surround myself with an entrepreneurial, global minded team.
 
Anyways, I was riding a mighty wave of renewed optimism for the world into today, and was looking forward to the cattle auction that wraps up the day. I was in the market for a bull which were way at the end of the sale. There were 4 going up for sale and while they were all really quality animals, I had my eyes set on two that I felt matched my farm, my budget, and breeding needs the best. The first comes up and bidding is super slow. So slow that the auctioneer stops the auction and tells us to get our act together. It brought me back to some of my teenage lectures I got from teachers and parents alike. Learning my lesson earlier in life, I took his advice and got to it.
After a bidding war with one other farm, I won and got the bull for $1300 under my estimation and under my self-imposed budget. I actually got a thumbs up from a friend/mentor on the other side of the room, and I may have cracked a smile (you got to keep your emotions in check at the auction, ya know?). Ready to call it a day and get home, I texted my dad to bring the trailer, I got a bull I wanted (we didn't bring a trailer, you don't want to tip the auctioneer that you're hoping to buy, ya know?) But then the other bull that I was interested went on the block, last one for the day, and things really got really interesting. No one was in the market for bulls so no one bid on him, there was only the opening bid, and I was floored. Bargain. The auctioneer must have felt the same and right before he was about to close the sale, I jumped in and got him. I went over my total budget by about $500 but I got not one, but two bulls that I really like, and need.
 
Fast forward to getting home, it's already after dark, and I'm dreading chores because I have a feeling that the pigs are gonna be out. Now why would I have that instinct? Well, they got out last night when dad had to cover for me so I could be at this awesome conference. Just his luck, huh? By the way, he also gets extremely valuable "I did this _______ for you, because you were gone" coupons to cash in during a future, totally irrelevant argument. I'm hoping he cashes them by Tuesday because they accrue interest...
 
Well what do you know, I get out there and it's pretty dark, but the sky and stars are pretty sweet. "Who needs Montana for Big Sky?" I ask myself. My tranquility is quickly snapped. Yep, the pigs are out. All except good ole reliable Eeyore, my trusty and mellow as can be boar. I turn the gator (UTV) off to assess the situation, and I hear squeals off in the distance. $%&$! Turn the gator back on and let's go find them. I drive off south in the general area of the squeals, which sounded like they were interspersed with cattle herd. Fun. Turn off the gator again because I can't see anything and I'm gonna need to rely on squeals. Literal lol, the pigs are back where I originally saw that they were out. Smart pigs? So I drive up there again.
Wait, where did they go? Turn the gator off, and by the sounds of it they circled all the way back to my second stopping point. Again, literal lol, as my patience is still relatively high at this point and I have a residual smile from the cattle sale. Turns out the pigs and I were essentially playing a game of Marco Polo, only with the rumble of the gator and pig squeals subbing in for those famous words. Restrategizing, I figure the pigs will continue to be pigs and be insatiable, and ultimately hone in on the gator (the food bringy thing). I position the gator so they'll come up and I can entice them into their pen with their feed, easily. Lucky for me, I can see about 150 yards away, a bunch of doofuses bouncing their way towards me.
 
At this point it's important to note that pigs have terrible vision, even in daylight. At night, they are basically 150-500 lb above ground moles with no care for personal bubbles. I have 18 excited pigs that are used to jostling for position during musical feed tubs, and I have a surgically repaired knee, so I need to be careful. Much like Batman, the dark is not my friend. The pigs are Bane. 18 banes ready to break my body. I gotta run, my only advantage over the pigs is that I know what direction I'll go next, they can only react. Like running away from an alligator, I think? Zig zags, or something something...
 
Off we go. Great plan in theory, poor execution in reality, I can't see the feed tubs because it's so dark, and the pigs are on my heels, screaming their "feed me" shriek, and a flash of "so this is how it ends, at 24" goes through my mind. Thinking fast and through self-preservation (I don't honestly think I was in danger, my pigs are the least violent pigs I know, they're just clumsy and hungry) I just dump the feed on the ground. Great idea in theory, poor execution in reality again. The pigs are used to eating out of the tubs, and that combined with their poor eyesight, they pass right over the golden corn oatmeal. They have no clue, and I'm running out of options. Actually one Einstein figured it out, but other grew more impatient. I gotta get the other feed bucket and find a tub, so I hop the fence to get the other bucket out of the gator. Cue poor pig eyesight. Right through the fence. Again. I was lucky and got the lid off quick and ran back in and found a tub, and then a second pretty quickly. This ended up being enough to keep them content for the rest of the night. But oh, did the night just begin, and with only one curse word on the tally sheet.
 
"Good, now that's done let's collect eggs and feed the chickens and put them in for the night." That actually went well, except the 3 ducks I have were especially elusive tonight. That's just how it's going tonight, and I accept it as the cost of doing business. One more stage complete with no curse words. "I'll count my blessings if Murphy's Law only gets this bad." Boy, was I wrong...
 
What's next? Oh, just the 90+ cattle being big babies because I'm about 4 hours late to their daily scheduled move to fresh pasture. They have a much more tolerable "feed me" shriek than the pigs, I can't even call it that. It's a moo. They can't possibly have as bad of eyesight as the pigs, right? So I get setting up the fence. No problems, I'm a boss at setting up fence. I have to go across the pig and sheep paddock to get to the next cattle paddock. It's ready quickly, with the assist from the sheep's fence, which is a net, not a single wire. It was already set up, and though the cattle have never seen it before, it's much more a physical barrier and much more visual. It should work. Should.
 
It's dark, and I move the gate so the cattle can move forward. They're used to this, but things are different tonight. Of course it is. "It's dark", I'm sure they all say as they look at me like a bunch of Blinkin Guessings (Robin Hood Men In Tights referrence, yo, watch it) cluelessly scanning the abyss for a sign from Cow God I assume. (On a side note, am I their Cow God? I wonder). Well, none of them are getting it, so I decide to give them time and go get the water tank and hose. Patience is key, usually, So, I wrap the 100' heavy duty hose around a pin that I put in my hitch, and just drag it to the next spot, it's just easier. Done it hundreds of times. As I'm loading the tank in the back of the gator I can hear that the cows have moved through the gate are figuring it out. Yay. I head on my way, and weave through them to go get the water ready for them.
 
I get to their paddock and find the water spout. Right as I'm about to plug the hose into the water source, I hear the cows bawling from a direction they should not be. I look up and sure enough, the cows are walking a completely different direction. Apparently, poor eyesight is cross-species contagious. At least tonight, it is. A few of the cows (probably just one @$$hole) just decided to plow through the white, highly visible net fencing, and oh the joys of herd mentality. Everyone follows!
 
I finish my action in motion and plug the hose in (water instantly starts to fill the tank) and I hop in the gator to get in front of them and turn them around. I whip around and head in their direction. There's about 30 cows going the wrong direction, and feeling the wind in their hair and knowing the pure bliss of "freedom" they take off to try to escape the gator. They aren't fast enough, fortunately, but just barely. I get them turned around, and heading the right way. But remember, it's dark, so there's a second platoon of cows following the gator at this point, and also experiencing that liberation and they are running the opposite direction onto incoming traffic. There's only a few of them, but they are clueless as old senile drivers driving on the wrong side of the interstate, except they are going 75 mph instead of 40. They seige through and I have to whip around to gather them too. Not too bad, but now the original cows I turned around have put the E brakes on and whipped a Uie (Uy? Uee? Ewwwee without the Eww?). Honestly, I don't recall how I figured this out, but I got it to work and got everyone going the right direction, kinda. I'm attributing the change in progress in solving this predicament to the amount of cuss words that flowed out of me at this point.
 
Hearing the ruckus, other cattle, mostly calves, got riled up and scattered. With no regard for the netting now laying on the ground they, they run through and inevitably get snagged, dragging the netting across the field. Isn't farming fun? Aren't animals so smart?
 
The worst thing then happened. The contagious blindness struck the lone member of the Homo genus in the equation at the most inopportune time. I didn't see the edge of the netting and ran it over. Instant tangled around the wheel. It's tough stuff and tangled beyond salvaging. At this point, my vocabulary has devolved into only curse words, but somehow I think an omnipresent observer would be able to understand me based on my clear inflections in my cussing and my exaggerated gestures of exasperation. The cattle are still not figured out completely and now the original barrier is no longer standing, I conclude I need to cut the netting free. What a great night to put on new pants and not switch my pocket knife, RIGHT?!?! I'm 1/2 mile away from the nearest sharp object that can cut heavy duty plastic and cattle are threatening to do whatever worst can happen next, next. I conclude that I need to just try to drive and snap the plastic? Well, it worked, RIP Orange Netting #3.
 
At this point, the cows have backtracked all the way back to their original paddock. Do I just give up and let them stay there for the night? Nope, farmer stubbornness kicks in and that is not an option. I'm pot committed.
 
There is nothing easier than turning a spread out herd of cows around 180 degrees. Nothing. Well actually, maybe inventing a perpetual motion machine? Surprising, this wasn't too hard to do, so my sarcasm is just me being pissy here. I get them moving in the right direction, and by God they avoid the netting this time. We approach the last gate before their new paddock and I notice something peculiar. There's the water tank, right next to the post. Huh???
 
Sherlock Famer investigates. Water tank>hose>ut oh. Guess who forgot to remove the hose/hitch pin and they whipped around earlier... The plug-in snapped a pretty heavy duty piece of plastic and completely came apart and I was dragging a hose and water tank behind until it hit the gate and got caught snagged like a stick in a stream. Where it was supposed to be connected there was now a water fountain. "Stay Hot, Jacob." Again, about 1/2 mile from my tools and remedy. The only thing flowing more than the uninhibited water is the self-deprecating stream of swear words coming from the person I didn't know was inside of me.
 
This story has gone on long enough at this point (kudos if you made it this far), so I'll wrap it up quickly. I did escape my self-determined doom eventually, after making multiple trips back to the tool shed and the pasture because I mistook what piece actually broke in the dark.
 
So yeah, probably one of my worst occurrences of bad luck and decision making ever. Farming does that. Each day or night, minute, or hour, has the potential to be utterly impactful, both positively and negatively. And while it was a pretty cruddy night, I have healthy and happy bulls new to my farm with genetics that'll persist on this farm for hopefully hundreds and thousands of years. And to top the rollercoaster off, I got inside and saw a friend request from the cute girl from the conference (cattle conference y'all, that's kinda a big deal. Cattle conference.) The feeling (if I'm not being too presumptuous) was mutual, so that gave me a nice bump in excitement and energy, enough to carry my through writing this overly adjective-laden memoir.
 
It's 2am, I'm not checking for typos. This was written in one pass, per-tradition. Please deal with it :)
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First Radio Interview

Last Friday, April 8, 2016, Scott Thompson interviewed me, on my birthday!, for the daily "Farm Talk" on the Big FM 93.7, a local radio station out of Monroe, WI. I talked a bit about our farm, the process of moving animals frequently, managing multiple species, and the benefits of perennial systems. It was a great experience, and I hope that I can continue to share with others through this!

It was on pretty early in the morning at 6:20 AM, so for anyone that missed it, here's a direct link to the file. Enjoy!

If you enjoyed these topics, want more discussions like this, or just like hearing my voice please give them a call at 608-325-2161 and request that I be on again! 

Download
April 8 Farm Talk
Interview with Jacob Marty, co-owner of Green Fire Farm in Monticello, WI discussing multi-species grazing and perennial systems.
farm talk april 8.mp3
MP3 Audio File 8.0 MB
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A Day of Blessings

A Day of Blessings

 

On Facebook this morning, I posted about my eventful morning, and ask anyone that knows me- I get jazzed about anything community involvement, democracy, and getting to go vote and anything related. I'm blessed to live in a time in history where I can vote. I'm blessed to live in a country where I can vote. I'm blessed to have been raised to value voting by my parents. So yeah, my morning was tough to top.

Even though I didn't get to grafting my apple trees, my afternoon didn't only top my morning, it was the highlight of my dad, week, and year to this point.

 

So I went out to forage my ramps, and I have 7 beautiful batches to pick from this early. Seeing I had more than enough, I left 4 of them untouched and decided to head home for lunch. That's when I saw 2 red-tailed hawks spook as my utv drove out of the woods. I wondered was going on and then I saw it: a bobcat!

 

Well, actually it wasn't a bobcat, but the outline of the head from 50 feet could have fooled anyone. The "bobcat" hopped out into the path from the wooded edge, and that's when I was corrected, it was a great horned owl. What a treasure! I vocally exclaimed "you are so beautiful" to myself, which I'm sure the owl picked up with its great hearing, though assuredly oblivious to the meaning of my noise.

 

We stared and shared the moment, and after a while I decided to snap a few pictures. My movements made her (or him) anxious and she decided to flee. That's when I was able to observe what was going on. A broken wing limited her flight to just 10 feet and rewarded her with a tumultuous landing.

I realized that this owl could be saved, but it would most likely starve to death if I didn't intervene. So I looked up wildlife rehabilitation centers in the area, but didn't find anything nearby other than in Madison. Nonetheless, I called and left messages, what's the harm in seeing if they would come down and get it?

 

With no answer, t I decided to push her to a safe haven- a thicket of sumac in the low ground of our pasture. Unsure of what would happen, I wished her goodluck and patience to stay there.

 

About 2 hours later, I received a phone call from Four Lakes Rehabilitation center in McFarland and they said they would take her. I said that I would try to catch her, but wasn't sure how that would go and if I got her, I would give them a call back. I wasn't sure she would still be where I last saw her, and even if she was, how would I catch her without injury to her or myself.

 

Turns out, catching an injured owl requires 3 things: a calm voice, patience, and an old quilt. And luck definitely helps!

 

She let me get about 20 feet away on the first try, but good luck throwing a quilt that far in the wind. i was constantly talking to her, hoping that she was as quick of learner of human intention as she is wise. Then I was able to get within 15 feet. And then 10 feet.

 

That was all the closer she would allow me to get, and she fled to the south into the open pasture. What ensued was what I call a slow motion game of chase, resembling a combination of tag and red light-green light. At least that's what I romanticize it as. I'm sure a fly on the wall would have appropriated circus music to it, but this is my story and my memory.

 

She tripped up before I did, which is no small feat as I was sprinting around in rubber boots, and she found herself on her back. An owl on their back in broad daylight is not much different than a turtle flipped onto its back. I capitalized by throwing my quilt, which to this point served as a combination of a low altitude kite and a matador's cape, onto her. She seized it in her 2 inch talons immediately!

 

With cautious I covered her head in the quilt, and a calm entered the situation. Despite the calm, I was not going to compromise my advantage by getting complacent. I sprinted over to the gator (utv) to get the dog kennel I "borrowed" from my neighbors. I thought the hard part was over, and maybe it was, but the next part was the most dangerous, at least for my superficial features. I had to somehow get the owl into the kennel, without further injuring its wing, and at the same time avoid those talons and that beak. Tools forged by millions of years of evolution to specialize in piercing and not letting go and pulling apart flesh. I respected the need for caution.

 

Now, I don't know if my strategy actually helped, but I ended up successful. To disorient and occupy the owl I lifted the quilt up and down to let in varying amounts of light. My thinking was that a super sensitive nocturnal goddess that an owl is would have an exaggerated experience that many humans can relate to. You know that feeling, the one where you walk into a dark room after being outside in the bright sun, or conversely being woken up to the curtains being opened.

 

To my "enjoyment" I was able to witness my strategy in effect. As I lifted the blanket and lower it I saw in glimpses the hyperactive pupils shrink and grow. I went back to 3rd grade in Mrs. Marty's (no relation) class where we learned about the pupils relation to the iris and smirked.

 

Slowly, I folded her wings in. After careful adjustment, I scooped her up into the kennel. By the way, I previously said you need 3 things to catch an owl. That's true, but if you want safely transport or handle it, you need a kennel or something.

The rest of the story is relatively uneventful. She, at this point she was named Aldo (after Aldo Leopold obviously, and screw gender norm names), and was able to enjoy a favorite childhood memory of mine: a gator ride. A ride in the back of the gator, often after dinner in the twilight of the day, when critters and creatures come out in the cool air. It was a feature of summer with my father, who captained the "ship". I don't think she realized that this was supposed to be a good memory. She was frantic, and I can't blame her, but in a few short minutes we were by the cheese factory (my home). I realized a second blanket (the first was in the kennel, and I was not retrieving that) could be used to return Aldo to the dark and consequently her comfort.

Before I could take Aldo to her new, temporary home afternoon chores were attended to, with no eventfulness I may add, a blow to the theory (law?) of Murphy's Law that what can go wrong, will go wrong. We also needed a change of vehicle, my car could not fit the St. Bernard sized dog kennel. Luckily a shirt-off-your-back type of neighbor, Lindsey, traded her van for my car for the rest of the day.

 

My father returned from a meeting, and was able to catch "something cool" before I departed. He was brave enough to pet her, something I thought he was pulling my leg about, but he "petted" her through the blanket. Not exactly what I had pictured, but Aldo seemed to not mind.

 

Ok, so now the rest of the story was pretty eventful. Dad helped me load her into the van, and the entire hour trip to the rehab center resulted in not a peep from Aldo. And to the credit of Four Lakes, the process was quick and painless (for me) and within 10 minutes of arriving, I was on my way.

 

I hope that Aldo will see my farm again, and the rehab center says that is definitely a possibility and something they like to do to reunite mates. I'm gonna have 150+ chickens in my pasture this year, so I'm hoping that Aldo remembers this day the next time she salivates at the sight of chicken nuggets in my pasture. I hope she diverts her attention to those voles that poses a definite debarking threat to my 2000+ fruit and nut trees that will be planted in the next 2 months. That's my hope, and while this might sound crazy to some, I'm choosing to put myself out there. I want to believe that there is more rhyme to this life than there is reason. That things will relate to each other in ways that they are treated, and by saving a potential "threat" to what I'm doing, I'm hoping that I am saved from a dysfunctional farm. A farm that is not in sync with nature. A farm that sees nature as a threat and not a fortune. A farm where I am not in the frame of mind to value all life as worthy of stewardship.

 

Thank you for reading. Aldo, thank you for this lesson.

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Being A Parent of Pigs

Some days you learn something new about yourself. Today I learned two things. First, that I might be a good parent when that time comes. And second, that I might not have a heart attack caused by farming.
 
Why did I learn these things? Well, let me tell you my story from today. I was in meetings all morning and afternoon, and I got back to the farm about 2 hours after usual chores (feeding time). I hurried over to the barn right away, knowing that there would be some starving pigs to greet me and let me know that I'm late.
 
I walk into the barn, and first thing I hear is: nothing. First rule of farming? Your life relies on the health of the soil and getting enough water to fall from the sky. Second rule? It is not good when a barn of pigs is not deafening loud at feeding time.
 
Ut oh.
To my surprise, there were pigs in the pen as I stepped in to feed them their soaked feed. Huh, that's weird, but good!
 
Then I realized that 2 of the 5 were gone. Four Letter Word!
 
The search begins. As I walk out to the open barn door, I saw pig tracks and snout marks that I failed to notice before. At this point I was imagining myself looking for pigs in all of the woods in the neighborhood in the dark and cold. "Here piggy piggy!" I could see the news headline: Wildlife Student Turned Farmer Creates Feral Hog Population in Southern Wisconsin.
 
"Such a shame, he had such a bright future!"
"Such a shame, he had such a bright future!"

 

Unlucky for me the tracks were lost quickly in the machine tracks on the road. There goes my "When Life Hands You Lemons" chance at least act like you're Davy Crockett.
 
Ok, where could they have gone? I scan the usual suspects: the wooded hillside they were all summer? Nope. The machine shed (oat wagon)? I don't see any pigs showboating down there... Luckily, I see a barricaded door on the calf barn just 50 meters away.
 
Today my guardian angel was my father who got them in there, and left them for me to find. Crisis and a cold night outside avoided.
 
As the day was slipping away I was feeling like pressing my luck. Why? I have no idea, I wasn't thinking clear, but I cleared the doorway, slid inside for a second, and they greet me with affectionate "pig kisses". This gave me the brilliant idea to just led them back to their barn. (To be honest, I had the idea, this just justified it). Now a more experienced farmer would know not to do this, this is my 11th month taking care of pigs. My dad avoided the long night search-and-rescuing for me, and here I am being all willy nilly just trying to lead them back with no corn, just good faith (pigs know no such thing).
 
You can see where this is going...
 
Well, they followed me.
 
All the way back to the pig barn, actually! I must have them trained well, but not well enough to avoid needing to do this in the first place, I guess.
 
This is where I learned that I might be a good parent eventually. I got them into their pen to reunite with their fellow pig comrades, and started to feed them just a bit more to keep them there while I fixed the hog panels attachments. No problems there, except for Snowball trying to eat my gloves (which might be pigskin? what a savage). I stood up and took that deep exhale of relief. There were the two culprits, just looking at me. They had not a smidge or hint of guilt. If I had to guess, I'd reckon that they didn't know what they had done (on the way back in I realized that they found the next 3 days of feed..). "I love you guys".

 

How could you not?
How could you not?
 
At that moment, I realized that this entire time, other than a quick cuss upon the realization that my dad had earned privileges to "I told you so", I didn't lose my cool, not even a little bit. I wasn't angry, or even really stressed, just the three C's: cool, calm, and collected. And it worked out in the end.
 
Pigs are like kids. They'll go where they shouldn't sometimes and don't realize what they are doing is wrong.
 
Pigs are like teenagers. All they think about is food, sleep, and sex. And I think both are a bit overrated in the intelligence department (especially pigs).
 
I imagine that being a good parent requires patience and calmness. Today, I exhibited those traits in a time where I could have freaked out. This could also prevent me from having a heart attack or other chronic stress-derived disease that ails farmers. My father has the propensity to get angry/stubborn as a form of stress, and I don't want to experience the same.
 
On a serious note, did you know that farmers are one of the professions most likely to commit suicide? Support your farmers, and let them know you appreciate what they do. Also, pay your farmers what they deserve so they don't have financial hardships that often lead to depression.
 
Well, if you made it this far, I hope you enjoyed the story, and thanks for reading! You are not aware of what my pigs are capable of. Keep a close eye on the facebook page to make sure I'm still around. I've read Animal Farm a few too many times to rest easy tonight. Why did I think naming one of my pigs Snowball was a good idea?!?!
 
-Jacob from Green Fire Farm
 
 
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Goodness Gracious, Great Balls of (Green) Fire!

Coming up with a name for this blog post was a bit difficult, but I promise it will make sense. We have cookies, meatballs, radio commercials, and mass extinctions in store in this post.

I just got back from a Holiday Cookie Exchange hosted by the Wisconsin Farmers Union South Central Chapter tonight at our local farm-to-table restaurant Cow & Quince, and as far as we could tell it was the first ever in our county. Now, I'm not much a baker at this point in my life (though I have a lot of pastured lard that I need to use in some pies and pastries soon) so I didn't bring cookies or any baked goods.

                                This was not staged! It was really that fun!
This was not staged! It was really that fun!

I'm comfortable with my grilling skills though, so I brought some savory "Great Balls of (Green) Fire" (that's not the only reference to this post's title) made with our own grass-fed ground beef . I'm just getting over my first (and hopefully last, right?) cold/sore throat of the season so it was nice to be feeling better and get out and socialize and try some fantastic recipes from other local farmers. You could sense and see the culture developing. It was tangible and intangible at the same time somehow. You could see it, but you could feel it. A culture based on relationships, camaraderie, laughter, and good food all stemming from people that feel connected to one another and the land that feeds them.

Before the event today, I was driving back to the farm from town where I substitute taught agriculture for the afternoon. On the radio, hoping for some Taylor Swift or some Lean On (and let's be honest, some Adele) I tuned to Z104, the local "hit" station. My desires were not obliged, shockingly all I got was commercials. But all is not lost! Lately there have been some weird triumphant, propaganda(ish?) GOP lipservice commercials getting plenty of play on the local hit and hiphop stations. This along with a few (at least 2 of separate stations) of the morning talk show hosts hammering "out-of-control" government spending (I'm not disagreeing) during my most recent trip to the butcher. I've been noticing that there's been a certain political "tilt" developing in the Madison listening area, so it was quite to my surprise when I heard this come on the radio: "Each year, 1 in 1 Million species should die out naturally, but we will be losing them 1,000x faster than we should be. If you care about the future of the world's animals, and if you care about our planet as a whole you'll watch "Racing Extinction" tonight on Discovery Channel."

 

Woah, where did that come from?

Well, apparently Ryan Seacrest is spotlighting this major issue facing our planet. One that isn't being covered by popular media. One that is threatening a ridiculous amount of species, upwards of 50%! One that is approaching equivalence to 5 other events in the history of Earth! The Earth is 4.6 billion years old, with life being around for about 3.5 billion years, and it's only happened 5 times. Humans are probably most likely to blame (come on, "probably"?) for this one. What is it? Mass Extinction.

Yep, we're at the onset of the 6th Mass Extinction in the known 3.5 billion year history of life on Earth. Humans are mimicking a "Great Ball of Fire" (read: asteroid) and causing an ecocide in the matter of decades and centuries, which are practically one and the same on a geological and evolutionary timeline. I go into more detail on the implications on society, the environment, and how it influenced the naming of our slogan "A Sixth reGeneration" here. The ad, which was different than the one attached to the above link, continued to elaborate on the current situation and why it's important. They were certain to make sure that all is not lost, and that we can change the trend if we act now. 

I haven't watched the film yet, but I can offer some potential solutions to chew on. There's no doubt that current, conventional (at least in western society) agricultural practices are expansive and more or less devoid of biodiversity, habitat, and generally Life. What if we managed that land with the objective of increasing, substantially, the biodiversity and habitat and consequently Life? In order to do that we do not have to sacrifice the production of food, rather we will have to sacrifice the type of food we produce. While turning the land fallow would work in some instances to combat climate change and provide habitat, it is not the grand solution. Rather than remove land from production we must redesign the production. We at Green Fire Farm are in the process of redesigning, and following the example many others have set forth. Innovators and Advocates such as Joel Salatin, Mark Shepard, Grant Schultz, and hundreds of other regenerative farmers that share their experiences. To learn more about what this looks like check out this.


Just like how there was a special culture developing at the Cookie Exchange, there is a growing movement that seeks to shatter public paradigms and build a more robust, resilient, and responsible global community.


Are you in?

This is what a piece of the future of agriculture looks like. Picture from Grant Schultz's Versaland (check it out!)
This is what a piece of the future of agriculture looks like. Picture from Grant Schultz's Versaland (check it out!)

P.S. I can't wait until next summer, in June and July, when I can use my own pictures of all of the trees we planted!

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A Bit Like College: Picking Up Chicks

We welcomed 110 pinballs of energy this week to Green Fire Farm! These lil girls will grow and mature through the winter and be primed to start doing what they do best come spring: eat bugs and lay eggs!


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They are an absolute joy to sit and watch. I used my own bird brain and pondered what it would be like to be a chick in another life. Though non-conclusive, I figure it would be quite the adventure.  Everything is so incredibly new and learning abounds! To be quite capable and precocious (able to drink, eat, and move on your own) as a new member of this world would be a lot different than our experiences as a human baby. And it is like that for everyone around you. I imagine it to be a great atmosphere! I'm anthropomorphizing here, but I can see their dialogue playing out like this:

"Woah, Chicken Little, come over here! Have you seen this?! Drink it, man!"

"Dude! Look how fast I can run!"

"The ground is so bouncy. It's like I live on a TRAMPOLINE!!!"

"I'm so hungry! Food!" *Inhales feed*

*Sleeps*



Now that I think about it, it sounds a lot like college!

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Chicks arrive only a day or two old (depending on shipping distance) and need water, feed, plenty of bedding, and heat. It's not rocket science and can be set up in just a few hours.

Observation is key after they arrive. Being able to catch any problems before they catch hold of the entire flock is essential. Lethargy, crowding under the heat lamps, and sticky and poopy butts are big red flags. Sleeping chicks are huge scares, but are almost always false alarms!

The good thing is that chicken chicks are usually pretty hardy after reaching their second or third day. Give them what they want and need and they do the rest!

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Pasture Walk

On Wednesday, September 23rd 2015, Green Fire Farm had over 100 visitors to learn about rotational grazing and see what went wrong, right, and what the future holds!


The Green County NRCS and Land & Water Conservation Office co-hosted, and the Wisconsin Farmers Union South Central Chapter provided coffee and treats!

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Introducing: The Egg Tank

We introduced our small flock of twenty layers to the pasture where they will reside in their mobile coop, the "Egg Tank", and serve as organic pest control and pasture scarification.


This behemoth of coop can hold 80-120 birds and has outside access to nest boxes for easy retrieval and automatic waterers. It follows about 3-4 days behind the cows to hit the fly development stage just right.

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