Farm Journal: the "to buy" list
Friendly hands make for light(er) work. Photo: Courtney Grimes-Sutton
This is part of a series of farmers writing about life on the farm , week to week, through the season. Courtney Grimes-Sutton is co-owner of Mace Chasm Farms in Keeseville. Read all of Courtney's journal entries here.
I love the morning time! I don’t do chores usually – the others do the chores. I spend some time writing lists, looking at the weather report. Smaller goals, larger goals, the day plan, what I need to order to make all of these things happen, or what we have that might work. Someday I won’t have to order things quite so much – systems will be in place for our various enterprises.
This is our first year, and I check our online bank statement often, measuring how critical our to-buy list items are against our upcoming bills, unpaid bills, and mortgage payments. The chickens won’t stay in their poultry net with the 10-mile solar chargers I bought, so I’ll have to return them and buy the bigger, better suitcase chargers for them – that would be an urgent item, because our system isn’t working – the birds storming the net makes the farm feel chaotic, and younger birds need space from the older birds. That’s more urgent than the timothy/clover seed mix that we need for seeding behind the group of piglets (who are reclaiming land that wasn’t managed before our time here for pasture), but it’s less urgent than the mortgage payment that’s due or the electric bill.
Fixing our truck or finding a new one is WAY up top presently, because we go through ridiculous pains to find a truck to borrow every week or two. A small horse trailer is, appropriately, right behind the truck on the list. Should we spread the hayfields after first cut? $500 for a 12.5 ton load of chicken manure in a spreader truck. Buying some Katahdin sheep is up there, as I could really use their grazing help along fence lines and hedges that will soon be a good sum of work for us to deal with ourselves. But before that, maybe we should re-deck the busted hay-wagon, order the next batch of chicks, and some more alligator clips for fencing. More quick couplers for building main water line up the new pasture, more wire shelving for the butcher shop, a manual for our old Massey tractor… those are important. A smaller sized horse (maybe a quarter horse) for getting around the farm, a small diesel tractor, additional haying equipment – those aren’t important this year.
But against the list of small and medium purchases, we have to hold the list of larger goals – ask ourselves what items will become obsolete when we implement systems that we’re working toward, and what could solve our current need that could have a useful place in the eventual operations. There are so many spaces in our structures and areas of the farm that could be brought into production or functionality – and those visions are tried on, super-imposed, over what we’ve got going now when I look around the farm… and they are exciting, those visions – and constantly evolving. Building a slaughter facility here on the farm would solve the need for hauling equipment. Digging a pond at the top of the hill with a solar pump house and draining the farm road for access, would make it easier to bring the dense, young forest area into silvapasture.
We just paid for a big grain order, so I’ve determined that we only have a few hundred dollars available for improvements this week after paying bills that are due – but that’s okay, because we’ve got a full week without growing infrastructure. We have hay on the ground again today that should be in the barn by nightfall! We’ve got a few pigs hanging in the cooler for cutting, we’ve got a batch of chickens ready to join them, pigs to move onto new ground, and onions to dress with nitrogen, since nutrients washed away in all that rain that is gone, but not forgotten. We’ve got some spelt to combine off for seed soon, but the little combine we bought is in Ontario – okay, so again, back to that truck on the list…
The morning time is when I sit down to look at it all, before cooking breakfast for the chore team & ringing the breakfast bell. Then we eat & meet, share observations and priorities, shape plans. Some days there are only two of us, some days there are four.
Last Monday we got 700 bales up, with the help of three bale-tossin’ heroes who answered our call for help, and a few amazing neighbors who loaned equipment. The field where that cut came off of is already freshly green and reaching upward again. It’s so good to see the sun, observe growth as a result, and forget where I left my rain gear.
I turned 30 this week. I kept it pretty quiet, and, as a reward it seemed, some great friends from out of town happened to call up for a visit on my day, since they were in the area. Travs from Albany, and Ers from New Orleans- with a crew in tow – one tuba player, one guitar player, and a fine artiste. Those guys put in some admirable work hours in the extreme heat of the week. They weeded onions, they mucked out the barn, they mixed three tons of feed, held the greenhouse down with us in 50 mile and hour winds, helped wrap ground beef for market, made us some beautiful new signs, and then graced the Saranac Lake market with their awesome music. They played, at the market, right through the intense rainfall that soaked the bread man’s bread, and erased our chalkboards. While the rain pounded the market tents, all I could hear of them from across the park was the tuba, jolly and consistent.
I’m happy to report that I can, once again, look at our tilled ground and cringe substantially less as a result. Many weeds were slayed in those fields this week, and germination is consistent, at last, in our last few sowings of snap beans. While we will not make a profit margin selling beans this year, maybe we will earn something to contribute toward our purchase of the rusty old bean picker. Now it’s about time to sow down some cover crops where prior crops failed due to rain– maybe some buckwheat for a fast smother and boost in organic matter, followed by some rye and clover? We shall see.
We’re just reveling in this light after that long, cloudy tunnel. Even keel weather allows for even keel farming. Bring it! We want lots of little peaks and valleys of rain and sun in the weather report, not great ranges of floods and droughts. This week has been kind to us. I’m grateful to be looking forward to that rubbery feeling in my legs and arms tonight after loading hay bales all day. Here’s hoping for smooth sailing! Over and out.
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