The Tiffany Blue farm truck has been sold

Tiffany blue Chevy step side c10
The truck, as we left it for the buyer

I covered the restoration of our farm truck extensively on the website back when we did the work. We restored the truck in preparation for Cassia’s wedding and were awful proud to be a small part of a beautiful ceremony.

Once the wedding was over, we were left with a gorgeous truck, in top condition. And I didn’t have the heart to scratch it or use it for anything other than going to get ice cream. Also, when I bought the truck, my kids had to ride in the back seat of the car, something they very much detested. With the old truck and only one bench seat, that rule didn’t apply. Now the kids are old enough to ride in the front seat and the truck was just sitting in the barn wasting away. I don’t have time to go to car shows, which is about all this truck was good for anymore so I decided that I needed to sell it. A post on Craigslist and a fair price and it was gone in about 30 days. The interesting thing is that everyone who was serious about buying it was a woman. What did the like the most about it? The color! It’s not a factory color, it is the color of Cassia’s wedding. I’d never have thought to paint it that color without her influence and boy did the girls like that color on a truck. The final buyer was a lady and after about 5 minutes of looking at it, she wanted it. Here is a picture of it after we delivered it to her. It was a fun project and I’m glad we did it however life moves on. Now it’s time for the next project.

Giant cardboard baler.
Our giant cardboard baler, going into position.

Maybe I’ll paint it Tiffany blue after we’re done.

What do I do with Chorizo?

We’ve been carrying Chorizo for a few months now. It’s a sausage that we sell by the pound in 1″ round links. I know it’s a mainstay with the Latino community, to the point that I had Miguel test it when we got the first batch in. I always try to point it out when we have customers in. There are two reactions generally.

1. “Wow!! Chorizo! Let me have 5 pounds.”

2. “Uh, what do you do with Chorizo?”

Thanks to one of our great customers, Drew and Cat, I have at least one answer for you.

Leftover chorizo, made with farm fresh local eggs and salsa
Leftover chorizo, made with farm fresh local eggs and salsa

Drew is responsible for our food porn posts, and he’s always inventing something, or whipping up something AWESOME with our products. He’s kind enough to send me pictures both to help me show what’s possible, and to torture me with the meal I missed.

Pictured above was his breakfast recently. Chorizo left over from dinner, cooked up with scrambled eggs and home-made salsa. For people like me who eat eggs for breakfast every day, day in and day out, over, and over, and over, and over again. Changing up eggs with some pork products is the way to go. If you don’t have any idea what else to do with chorizo, at least try it with your eggs in the morning. You’ll be glad you did.

Chorizo tacos with home made salsa and fries.
Chorizo tacos with home made salsa and fries.

Here is dinner the night before. How simple is breakfast when you have all this fresh goodness left over.

Chorizo and scallops. It could have been lobster as well. Salsa roja to compliment
Chorizo and scallops. It could have been lobster as well. Salsa roja to compliment

If you have no idea what to do with chorizo, or you’ve been intimidated to try it, I think the lesson here is clear. Find our where Drew lives and show up at his house for dinner. Barring that, try some chorizo yourself. It makes everything better.

Grazing update

On May 16th, we grazed our monitored paddock on the South side of the farm closest to the golf course. With our 32 acres of grazing pastures, and our neighbors addition of 13 acres we have a total of 45 acres of grazing. On that 45 acres, we have about 750 pounds per acre of cattle. That means total we have 33,750 pounds of cattle grazing currently. That’s based on a weight estimate I did back in late February. Since then we’ve lost a cow to death, had some births, and overall changed the ratio somewhat but for now that is our grazing pressure per acre. The grass is standing up very well to this setup, in fact I think we could use some management to increase the pressure but we’ve been so busy with other things we haven’t played with the management much this season. Once we catch up, we’ll try moving the cows every few hours vs. once per day and see what that does to our grazing.

Grazing measurement stick and grass
Before grazing, the grass is a bit thin still coming out of winter but where it’s there it’s doing well.

Here is how the grass looked before grazing. The seed heads of the grass were off the top of the measuring stick which makes them about 35″ tall. That makes sense because they are coming over the hood of the Gator as we drive through the fields. Underneath the seed heads, the actual grass was about 15″ tall.

Grazing measurement stick and grass
This is post grazing, the grass is shorter and some of the seed heads are gone.

It looks like in this picture that the grass is significantly shorter. However it is a deception. In reality there is still a lot of grass in this picture.

IMG_3684.2015-05-17_122022

Here is a pre and post grazing comparison. Grazed on the left, not grazed on the right.

With the rain and mild weather, the fescue is doing well. We don’t have any thatch to speak of as what was there decomposed over the winter. However post grazing we have clipped all the pastures putting all this material on the ground. We need to get that organic material on the ground and build the thatch in preparation for the summer to come so we can hold moisture in the ground and give the warm season grasses a chance to thrive. Plus we’re supposed to be building topsoil, something that needs to start again in earnest. I hate winter when the soil is muddy and unprotected.

So Miguel had an idea

Every day, we process a couple of tons of food, literally. Most of this food shows up in its original wholesale packaging. That means it’s in boxes of some sort.

A huge load of produce
The other 1/2 of the load.This one weighed more than the first one.

This is a good example of what I’m talking about. Oranges, avocados, lettuce, etc. Each box holds what will be food for our animals. So what happens when the food is removed from all these boxes? We get a huge pile of boxes, every day. This whole produce thing started out small, so our solution was small. We just tossed the boxes into our burn barrel where we’ve burned all of our paper trash all the years I’ve lived on the farm. As the business grew, we built a bigger burn barrel, and then a bigger one, but the solution itself didn’t change. I did contact Waste Industries to see if we could recycle the cardboard but it sounded like they basically treated it as trash and charged us to boot. Then Miguel had an idea.

“Jefe, the guy who owns El Toro has a compactor where he compacts his cardboard. He must sell it to pay for the compactor.”

Turns out Miguel was right. He went and talked to the owner of El Toro and while he didn’t get rich, he was able to pay for his compactor in a few years and get a few dollars to spare. Armed with this information I started looking at compactors, and ran into a brick wall. Turns out they all run on three phase power and we only have single phase power on the farm. So I looked closer at compactors. Turns out they are just a simple hydraulic system running at about 2500 psi. There isn’t any fancy computer on most of them, just some safety lockouts and a big honking electrical motor to turn  a hydraulic pump.

Since our log splitter is one that I built myself and it has no hydraulic system or gas engine but instead runs off of our skid steer quick connects, I have some experience using an outside power source for hydraulic power. And our skid steer runs at about 2500psi. With about a 65 horse power engine, we should have plenty of power to run a baler. The issue was to find one that is ragged out so badly it’ll be cheap enough I can justify hacking all the expensive bits off of it. No sense buying a $1000 hydraulic system just to cut it off. So I talked to my local cardboard recycler and told him my plan. He said he knew a guy in Virginia who might have just what I want, and he was right. Yesterday I came home with this.

Large cardboard baler on trailer
The big green monster coming off the trailer.

After looking at balers for a while, it seemed they all were about the same. 60″ vertical baler, 10hp motor, yadda yadda. I went up to look at this baler and made sure the cylinder looked ok, that the door opened and closed, etc. It had the manufacturer’s name on it, but not the model so I could only get an approximation of what it was. The electrical system was shot and I was removing the hydraulics so it really didn’t matter about the rest of it. It wasn’t till I got it home that I looked up the motor specs and found out this is the Philadelphia Tram Rail Company’s 7200HD when what I thought it was was the 3400HD. Oops. Turns out it weighs over 8000 pounds where I thought it weighed 5000 pounds. Also it makes 1800 pound bales vs 1200 pound bales with its 115,000 pounds of compression force! Considering I bought this thing for about what it is worth at a scrap yard, I don’t feel too badly about getting the hoss unit, but it was an adventure getting it off of the trailer and into position.

Placing a baler into position.
Using everything we had.

It took both the crane and the backhoe to lift this thing. The crane will pick up 21,000 pounds but that is at max lift in the best position. Our where we had to work, we could pick up about 6000 pounds, which is about 2000 short of what we needed.

Lifting a cardboard baler with a backhoe and crane
Combo effort

Since we didn’t have a concrete pad poured yet, we had to be careful and not drag the baler, creating an uneven footing.

Unhooking the baler from the crane
Finally in place!

It took Miguel, Vicente, and me, along with the crane truck, the backhoe, the farm tractor, the skid steer, and the diesel truck and the new trailer all involved to get this job done. Plus it took almost every chain we had, two come-alongs, many blocks of wood, and too much of the morning. Now I have to plumb in the new hydraulic setup, grease the door, find wire ties for making bales, and finally put this thing to work. If everything works as expected, then we can pour a concrete pad and move this thing all over again! But then we’ll be baling our cardboard instead of burning it which should save time and a little bit of the world.

We are back in the honey bee business

Like a lot of bee keepers, I’ve had a tough time with my bees. Last year we had two really strong hives, and one not too strong hive going into the winter. One nice day in early winter I checked on the hives and as expected the not strong hive had died out. I think I had a bad queen but I really didn’t want to requeen the hive so I let it go. However I was shocked to find that my strongest hive was also dead. There was plenty of honey in the hive and it wasn’t even cold yet. Really not good. So in desperation I tried to keep the remaining hive (I only have three) alive through what ended up being a horrible winter. Like the first hive, this hive died off with honey still in the box and I went from a bee keeper to a bee murderer.

I had planned on getting three new packages of bees in the spring of 2015 and had already ordered them. Now I debated just getting out of the whole thing and forgetting about bees. Winter turned to spring and I was still discouraged about my bees when we had a swarm of native bees move in. That got me going again and I thought maybe I could try bees one more time. I’m glad I was in the mood because on Monday I got a call from the post office that my bees had arrived. I looked at my calendar as I wasn’t expecting the call. Yep, no notes of when the bees arrive… Oops, no notes at all! Apparently I forgot to put the date on my calendar. Ugh! Thank God I was in town and could run over to the post office. I hightailed it over there and picked up my package. Unfortunately, one of the packages had died off pretty severely and couldn’t be used, but I simply combined it with one of the other packages and gave the queen away to another bee keeper.

Bees in a box at the post office
Picking up bees at the post office

This is how bees show up at the post office, a box of swarmy, buzzy, scary, goodness. It’s often that someone is freaked out by seeing all these bees and is scared they will escape. The funny part is, I have always received my box with at least one hobo bee. That’s a bee that didn’t get captured in the box and elected to hang onto the outside. She rides all the way from Georgia to NC, through all the different loading and unloading of the post office, and rides all the way home with me with no problems, and no flying away, and most importantly no stinging. Bees with no home to protect are completely docile. These bees have been sucked out of their home and mixed with other bees they don’t know. They have a queen they barely know at this point and all they want to do is get inside somewhere and start making a home.

One of our new top bar hives
One of our new top bar hives

Well that’s exactly what we did. I took the packages of bees and went to work on cooling them down, getting them some water, and keeping them in the shade while I prepared our new hives. Normally you wait till afternoon to hive new bees because they are much less apt to fly away. But with one package already pretty much dead, I felt it was best to get them into a hive as quickly as possible. I had to clear away the two old hives, reset one of the stands to a new location, bring out the new hives, and get the feeders and bee gear all ready. All easy things to do and things I would have done earlier except I forgot the bees were coming. No problems though, it all got done and everyone is in their new homes. They are already defensive of their new homes and they are building comb so they are moved in as well as can be expected. They are all already drinking their feed which should give them a boost. Now if the queens will do their jobs we should have strong hives this year.

For comparison, I checked on the native bees as well. While these new bees are starting with shiny brand new homes, the native bees moved into a place that was well lived in. There was comb and honey already in the box. There was also dead bees on the floor, unwanted bugs running around, etc. The home had potential but it was a fixer upper. However the native bees have knocked it out! There is already capped honey in their new house and they are rocking and rolling. We’ll probably get a little bit of honey off this hive this year since they have such a start already. That would be nice.

It feels good to have bees back on the farm however I’m already dreading winter but we’ll deal with it when it gets here I suppose. SWMBO apparently has a new friend whose husband is a master bee keeper who needs some land for his bees. Hopefully he’ll be interested in coming out and helping out. If that’s the case, we should be able to greatly increase our bee success. If we can increase our success, then we can increase our product and finally have some honey for sale!

Vacation!

Cow getting a massage. Funny.
It wasn’t quite this relaxing, but pretty close

Last week the entire family and I went on vacation. It’s not unusual for the family to go on vacation, but it is unusual that we ALL went. I always seem to have something that requires my presence and keeps me from going. I probably make 1 out of every 10 vacations and those are ones where I drive down late and/or leave early. You’d think that by selling my company and going to farming full time I’d be able to take off now since I have Miguel and Vicente here but the first vacation of this year, I had to stay home and was glad I did because it was so busy. The really bad day we had was when I was supposed to be at the beach with the family.

Last week’s vacation was special in that it was actually a school trip disguised as a vacation. We went to Colonial Williamsburg, VA and toured the entire town.

Preparing to attack the English governors palace.
Preparing to attack the English governors palace.
A gentleman from the 1700s, riding a Segway.
A gentleman from the 1700s, riding a Segway.

I’m going to post some pics of what was interesting from the trip because a lot of our friends follow us on the farm site. There is a LOT of farming stuff I need to post, so not to worry, more pics of cows and pigs coming soon. There was one bit of farming that had to happen before we left though.

Breaking down a side of pork
My chore before I could get in the car to leave

I had to butcher and process the pig we had to shoot that had been hanging in the cooler ever since. When we got the family up to leave, I was already hard at work in the kitchen breaking down this side of pork. It had to be made into usable cuts, vacuum sealed, labeled, and put in the freezer. Then I had to clean up and put everything away. This was all before we could leave the house so it was an early start to the day. In case you are wondering, yes that is our kitchen I’m working in. SWMBO is a wonderful wife.

Colonial Williamsburg character
There is a scavenger hunt for the kids with lots to see, and lots of characters to talk to. They were wonderful.
The family, along with our traveling partners from our home school co-op
The family, along with our traveling partners from our home school co-op
Colonial Williamsburg, VA
Of course, there is a lot of history to learn about while you are there.
Blacksmith, Colonial Williamsburg
I was more interested in the trades and crafts that are authentically recreated every day at Colonial Williamsburg. I could go back and spend a day just seeing these different trades being performed. 
Colonial Williamsburg, VA
Overall it was a great trip to Colonial Williamsburg. We probably had more fun than education, but we are going back.

It wasn’t all school while we were there. On the way up, we toured some wineries in the area. They were gorgeous! The wine wasn’t too bad either.

The view from one wineries rooftop deck.
The view from one wineries rooftop deck.
Bed head
We had the requisite sleeping in, with bed head to match.
Busch Gardens
Busch Gardens

The next day was Busch Gardens. Not somewhere I would have picked since I don’t ride rides but I always found a bench to sit on and the kids had a ball. I’d go back.

Busch Gardens
Busch Gardens
Busch Gardens
Action shot, courtesy of yours truly

The last day was spent at the place where we stayed. There was lots to do and the entire place was really nice. Mostly we stayed by the pool and played some mini-golf. There were tears from both families when it was time to leave.

Mini golf
Mini golf, straight out of the pool. 

More farming to come. I promise. We are home now and it’s busy as it can be this week. I already have lots to post, with more coming.

Cow # 3 had a new calf, #54

    This cute little girl was born today around lunch time. Both calf and mom were doing well when we checked on them. She had already nursed and was laying back down in the shade. 

The new calf got her ear tag and became part of the herd. We will check up on her tomorrow and make sure everybody is doing ok. 

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