farm animals and harvesting beetles, garlic

Our schedule on the farm, day to day, has been quick-paced and varied. At any given time there are twelve things that need to be done. One urgent task may require four other things be done before finally getting to what you originally set out for. Some things are reliant on weather. Trays of succession plantings to seed, fall transplants to get in. Weeding carrots, thinning beets. Looming infrastructure projects that need tackled before the weather turns. Just as you feel settled into an every-other-day snap pea harvest schedule – BAM – better get those summer squash, quick! Each week’s CSA harvest brings something new. And now: potato beetles. The swelling to-do list evolves with the season, the length of the days. It’s a little shotgun, a little roller coaster.

However, there is also an underlying constant, a reliable rhythmic structure to the farm cycle – animals. Looking after the lambs and the chickens provides a very routine heartbeat to our growing season on the farm. Moving the tractors, grinding feed, carrying water buckets, tending to the brooder babes. Every day. Time spent watching the animals, checking in on how they look, their behavior. What are they eating? How much are they eating? This time is necessary and can’t be rushed – we work on their time.  Caring for the animals provides us a solid rock steady beat to our otherwise Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew farm schedule.

Pasture management proceedings. Pasqual, Isidro, and Ambrose are doing a great job, mowing, feasting, ruminating. Spirited, endearing and affectionate, each with very distinct personalities. We have them in a 10×16′ hog panel tractor (pronounced lamborghini) that moves (typically twice) everyday through the pasture ahead of the chickens. The hog panel tractor helps protect our young fruit trees from being wantonly pruned, it also ensures an even grazing of the pasture. By the time we move them, the lambs have generally mowed down everything evenly within their tractor area, rather than picking out just the best bits and over time selecting for a junky pasture forage profile. They avoid flax. They devour dandelions. Everything is trimmed down to chicken-friendly height.  A few days after the lambs, with the pasture grass newly mowed, the chicken tractors move through.Here’s a link to a short video of Jerm moving one of the tractors. The birds quickly figure out what it means when the walls start shifting. They line up on the forward edge and chase the tractor onto fresh grass and new buggy breakfast. The area they leave behind is covered in a healthy coat of chicken shit, all the grass has been pecked away. It seems pretty bleak. But then, in a week or two, the grass is back, dark green and lovely. The diversity and vigor of what grows after being swathed by the lamborghini and chicken tractor is gratifying and inspiring.  We’re excited about this for a variety of reasons, including: healthy, happy animals, providing good meat for our community, soil carbon sequestration, growing pasture diversity and nutrient cycling.In the brooder, we have our season’s last batch of little peepers, now not yet a week old. These will move out to pasture in a tractor at four weeks old and be butchered come late September/early October. If you are interested in, or would like more information on, pre-ordering some of our delicious pastured, non-GMO chicken, contact us.

As relates: we have a handful of brand-spankin’ new little keets on the farm as of this morning. The tiniest, most adorable, fluffball-things you ever did see. Soon to be obnoxious farm buskers, self-trained tick assassins.Also this week: we are defending our potato crop from an attack of potato beetles at the Eddy field. This involves hours of hand-picking bright orange larvae and stripey beetles off of our nearly denuded plants. Every other day. We haven’t yet made beetle pepper, but we’re thinking about it. We have seven different varieties of potato planted in about a 1/4 acre area. Some of these varieties are holding up against these little villains much better than others. One section of this field is being hit harder than others, this same section had been planted with potatoes last year. The Russian Banana Fingerling are holding strong, but unfortunately, the German Butterballs are getting annihilated. The gbs are in the section of the field that had been planted with potatoes last year. So we’ve got new potato butterballs in the CSA shares this week. Since starting our beetle collection and squishing strategy, we’ve noticed new, green growth on previously sorry potato plants – things are looking up.

This is a field we are leasing, north of town – an acre of dry beans, popcorn, winter squash, and potatoes. We have potatoes planted in our own field (at cyclefarm) and have never had this type of potato beetle pest problem. There are so many different variables that might explain this (land management, tillage/no-till, crop rotation, resident predator insect population, varying soil nutrients, moisture, and plant health). It’s been a great learning opportunity and has given us a whole lot to think about; we’re feeling appreciative of our healthy plants and the management decisions we’ve made here on our own fields.Between routine potato beetle collections, we harvested our garlic beds. Garlic is a special crop to Cycle Farm, our first seed planted and this best-yet harvest has us feeling hugely rewarded. There is something earthy-magic to the stinking rose. A mysterious gift to unwrap. The wily shrunken head, lleno de dientes. Toxin-buster cluster. Sticky fingers and the thick, enduring smell.  Four different varieties of garlic (nearly 1500 heads) are laid out and hung up to cure in the shed. Some of these are saved from seed originally planted in 2011 – great granddaughters – by our friends, Obi and Jill, at the very very beginning of Cycle Farm. Much of these we’ll set aside as seed for next year in the hopes of expanding our garlic production. Half the fun of harvesting garlic is getting another chance to peek in and explore this amazing soil – what thankful farmers we are.


The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life. – from The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry (..and here’s another good read, The Pleasures of Eating from What are People For?)

meet your meat

Do you know where your meat comes from? We would like to welcome you out to the farm for a special Pastured Poultry Field Day on Saturday, June 20th. Fun for the whole family, everyone is welcome. Tour begins at 2:30PM. CCF05162015_0002 copyCome spend the afternoon at the farm with us and see how our chickens are raised. During our Pastured Poultry Field Day, we’ll visit with newly hatched chicks in the brooder. Then we’ll head back to the orchard and visit with the chickens in rotation on pasture in chicken tractors. The tour will also include a discussion on mixing and grinding our own blend of certified organic and transitional whole grain feed rations, the economics of raising chickens/how we set our price, and sharing details on humane slaughter. Although we will have the equipment set up and be discussing slaughter methods, we will not be demonstrating a slaughter on Saturday. (We are looking for help on butcher days, if you are interested in coming to help out, please let us know.)

The general state of meat production in this country is grim – for the animals, the farmers and the environment. But as meat eaters, we can make choices as to where we source our meat. We’re excited about raising happy, healthy animals for our community in a way that benefits the land. Come visit the birds, ask us questions. Food tastes better when you know where it comes from. We look forward to sharing our small pastured poultry operation with you. Hope to see you on the tour.

elementary carbon cycling

Today we had a chance to spend the morning with 3rd graders from Creekside Elementary School and the BHSU Sustainability program. Together, we explored the function of animals on the farm and delved into the carbon cycle, observing that nature doesn’t farm without animals. There was also a seemingly necessary amount of ogling chickens and snuggling lambs.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe peeked in the greenhouse to see how things had changed since their classmates had been out to visit the farm in early March. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA…and discussed the benefits of rotational grazing and farm animal poop as regards to sequestering soil carbon and mitigating climate change. The students brainstormed a whole suite of ways we can personally reduce the amount of CO2 we are contributing to the atmosphere: riding bicycles and walking, not wasting electricity, planting trees, recycling, growing your own food or eating food grown locally. Smart kids.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAdditional, tangential topics covered this morning included: food miles, butchering livestock, growing cabbages, alternative energy, hogs used for tree stump removal, the indispensable function of pollinators, annuals vs. perennials, and how riding bicycles is the smartest thing ever. And we did a few jumping jacks.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is a great quote from Robert Michael Pye (from The Thunder Tree: Lessons from an Urban Wildland), where he talks about the extinction of experience, how people are losing personal contact with nature, how all-round bad that is, and how we need to get our act together and remedy this. “People who care conserve; people who don’t know don’t care. What is the extinction of the condor to a child who has never known a wren?” Like natural areas and open spaces, we seem to have grown disconnected to agriculture, farms, food production. And similarly, as we’ve become more removed from where our food comes from, we’ve set in motion a cycle of disaffection. Bring kids to a farm, introduce them to lambs and chickens and talk about soil fertility and humane slaughter, and it leads to not just an awareness, but a sense of responsibility. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat a treat to be able to share our farm with you. Big thanks, all!