I have spent a lot of time this summer waxing poetic about the farm, writing "meditations" and sending marketing emails. "But what's going on on the farm?" people ask me, and I realized I have not dedicated very much space to an actual update about our lives on-farm.
So here it is: Farm log September 1, 2023.
The goat kids were weened and moved up to our farm (which is about two miles down the gravel road from John's family's land) about six weeks ago. John and our "new" Farm Hand Jacob (more on him, below) went to check on them a few days ago and they were gone. Not a single goat was in the paddock.
Luckily the group was found about 20 minutes later in a neighbors old, defunct barn, and, luckily, they are accustomed to following their bossy leader, JLo. John got JLo on a "leash" (his belt) and led the lot of them back up the hill to our house. Sometimes it comes in handy to have animals with herding instincts who want to stick together.
Jacob Chambers, the aforementioned Farm Hand, moved here from Colorado in June to work with us. He is great, and his being here not only helps ease the work on the farm for us; it also is part of our overall farm mission to include more people on the farm. He is interested in growing "small grains"--buckwheat, oats, wheat--and is excited just to be out every day on the farm. We are grateful he is here and hope we can figure out all of the details to make it a beneficial arrangement for all of us for many years to come.
The goats and cattle made it through the intense heat wave in mid-August. A much under-reported fact about the heat wave in Iowa and around the world is that heat of that nature kills cattle, especially cattle standing in feedlots without trees or grass to absorb the heat. Which is just another reason for everyone to know how their meat is raised, and to be sure it is treated so humanely, on farms where cattle can graze on grass and get out of the sun.
Our first calf of the season was also serendipitously born just this morning--hopefully the first of many healthy calves to come this year (as opposed to our difficult calving season last year). Mom looks to be taking good care of it already, sniffing and licking the calve to be sure it is up and alert.
But to be honest, my favorite part of the farm is in the garden, where the abundance of nature is omnipresent (and not only in plants, but in the dang bugs that eat them too). We have a very large garden, one I hesitate to call a vegetable "farm" (for reasons I will get to in a minute), full of tomatoes, kale, cucumbers,cauliflower, green beans, and melons. The melons (pause)...are fodder for my next blog post. So amazing they are, so tasty, so beautiful. I could go on, but will save that for the next installment.
We have been selling produce--both to individuals (as you can see below) and to restaurants in Des Moines.
So why not call this a vegetable "farm" if I am harvesting and packaging up produce for people?
Labor. It is not only labor intensive to plant and grow fruits and vegetables--it also takes hordes of labor to harvest, pack and drive products from the farm to customers, and to get it to them in a timely fashion. And because the margins are so small (pennies on the dollar) you have to sell a lot of them to get a return on investment. Next time you buy a 39 cent-a-pound banana, marvel at how the hell it can get from a tropical region of the world to you for so dang cheap. What is the farmer, or the farm worker, actually making at that rate?? Even when you pay $5 a pound for green beans at the farmers market--just ponder how little that is overall for all the work of growing, picking and transporting all those beans.
It makes my head hurt. So, for now, I am just trying to make sure I am not losing my rubber boots in the deal, to feed ourselves and the community while at least breaking even.
I will finish out this long ramble by posting several photos of the new old Barn-House. The structure is almost finished, and we are actually hosting our first guests in it this weekend!
As you can see from the photos below, we still need furniture. But I hope you can envision spending some time in it someday soon. We will be announcing upcoming classes--Food+Farm Writing (taught by me), and Sausage Making (John's class). They will be held in mid-October and November.
I will send out more info about the September 8th Happy Hour on Monday--be sure to make some room in the frig and freezer if you plan to come. And if you would like to book a farm stay or a class--please contact me at WhippoorwillCreekFarmIowa@gmail.com.