Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How not to insert a calf weaner

I seemed to have left the pasture gate open and a few of the closest neighbors complained that our cows were nibbling on their lawn. Well, let me be honest. The grass is dead here and I don’t think it was the eating as much as the getting rid of part that bugged most people. I tried to convince an annoyed neighbor that they should be happy as it’s free fertilizer but that only got me a disgusted, even more angry look from the receiver of digested grass.

We were actually away at the time our devious bovine ran wild and free and Grey Beard had to chase the culprits back into their confines. I’m not sure how that would of looked but I can only imagine Grey Beard using a few choice words and he flung frozen dung at the critters.

In the mean time our steer lost his weaner nose piece. The one that looks like this.

wind 042 I’m pretty sure this could catch on as a new hip trend for the high school kids. Don’t you think we could convince a few already pierced participants that this would really show the world they are cool. I’d even take off the plastic balls and just lance it through a nostril or two.

Or how about this one. We bought this plastic piece but decided against it. I’m sure it would of worked but I cringe just looking at the thorns.

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Molly thought it was a pretty cool play toy. I knew I had to take it back as there is no way I’m going to be the cause of my little girls fashioning a device like this in their nose just to be in the cool kids gang.

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After we discovered the steer lost his weaner apparatus, Milly bought another one and sent me out to secure the device.

The last time I tried to put the calf weaner in place  Milly had to come out and tackle Monkey to the ground after I ran around with Ringo for a half hour trying to get close enough to the stupid steer. This time Milly said I had to be a big boy and tackle the steer myself.

So with the courage of a girly man I went out to give it a go. I picked up a completely inadequate rope and had visions of slinging it across the field while having it land perfectly around the critters neck. You know, how they do it in the movies or at the NFR. (I actually have a few high school friends that are rodeo cowboys. I’m sure glad Riley Wilson and Tom Bingham weren’t around to snort and snicker.)

I guess flinging a rope around takes talent. I tried it a couple of times and the steer just laughed at me as the rope landed harmlessly on top of the cow shed.

Drat the luck.

I think Milly, the kids, and half the town were watching me out their windows and most of them were cheering for Monkey.

I tried a different strategy. I plopped down some hay and used Rosebud as a shield to sneak up on the competition. Much to my chagrin Rosebud started blocking for Monkey like she was a clearing the path to the end zone.

After many attempts and a few close calls I finally sneaked up on the steer while he was peeing. I only got a little wet but it was worth it. Somehow I managed to get the steers leg caught in with my make shift lasso. That actually worked out ok. I led the steer forward and it couldn’t really walk. It kind of tumbled over to the ground so I jumped at the chance to get the weaner in place.

Defenseless and I’d guess somewhat bored of all my attempts the steer just snorted snot all over my hand as a token of admiration and respect for my tenacity. (I’m sure that was it.) 

I wasn’t sure if any one else saw me bring that critter to the ground like I did but as I came in the house Milly grinned and said “I bet you think your a cowboy now.”

Ha, ha. Victory. My wife actually saw me be a man for once.

As for my annoyed neighbors? They better be careful when they complain about cows on their lawn. I hear them cowboys are a pretty rough lot to deal with.

G’night, Y’all.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas activities on The Simple Farm

I can’t believe Christmas is over already. We had a ton of fun with a bunch of family. This is the first time in about 5 years we’ve been around the family for Christmas and we really enjoyed it.

Here’s Molly making sure Polly knows she likes her.

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For some reason the girls ended up on top as the kids wrestled in the front room. Surprisingly no one got hurt. It was loud and wild but somehow everyone still ended up friends.

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We ended up with some kind of mid evil theme this Christmas. The kids got ribbon sticks which they enjoyed. Ringo figured out it also acts like a bull whip so he’s cool with that.

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We also made swords for everyone. We used this sword making instructions and they turned out rather nice. All the kids ran around beating on each other and chasing dragons around the house. Funny thing is these were pretty well free. We got the wood from the place we got some housing material and the guy just ripped us a 10 foot by inch wide piece of red oak and it was enough for 5 swords.

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We also gave the kids bed sheets with rope and clothes pins so they can make their own tent. They decided to combine all the tents into one giant structure. Can you count all the kids under the tents?

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We also went to a Christmas dance. Molly and Sugar (new addition to who’s who) danced up a storm in their Christmas dresses.

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My kid is the one with the tongue sticking out. I think he’s tired of me with my camera out all the time. Sugar and Tulip on the other hand aren’t so used to it and decided to pose for the photo opp.

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This reminds me of my old high school dances. Chairs along the wall are at a premium even at a family dance.

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I tried to get Willow and Daisy out on the dance floor but they were too cool and pretty to dance with their old man uncle.

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OK Willow, stop posing, we know you’re pretty. Put away that stinking phone and come dance with your uncle. I hear she’s single by the way fella’s. Although anyone wanting to date her has to go through 4 pretty mean uncles, a dad that knows karate, and a brother that shot a buck 450 feet away this hunting season (no joke).

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We also went into Shorty and Elvis’s place. Shorty is playing a game with the kids here. I think she won. She’s ruthless in card games even with the youngsters. I think she was a card shark in her former days as I don’t ever remember beating her ever in Uno, Rook, Phase 10, etc. She has them all mastered. I even think she could be me at Solitaire if that is even possible.

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To sum up Christmas, we ate a lot, played a lot and had a very nice time with almost all our immediate family (Missed seeing you Penelope and Sidney).

Only 363 more days until next Christmas.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

House progress

I haven’t updated anyone on the progress of the house lately mostly because by the time I get done working on the place at night it’s dark and the pictures don’t really turn out that well. We finished putting on a door for the main floor back entrance so now it almost feels like a real place. We finished the door in the dark so there is no picture of that.

We’ve also been working a lot on the basement the past couple of weeks. We are going to install radiant in floor heating in the basement so we’ve insulated the basement floor with 2 inch hard insulation. We will then lay rebar every two feet and attach the Pex piping to the rebar. I’m not sure if that’s the regular way it’s done but that’s the way we are doing it.

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Here is the sump pump hole. After digging this along with going underneath the footing to install a drain in the outside stairwell I am convinced I could have easily dug out the basement by hand. It would have taken a month or two but I don’t think it would have been that bad.

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Here’s a view of the south side of the place.  I like the brown tin. We were considering red tin but I’m glad we weren’t so bold. It may be warmer in the summer but hey, we are in Canada so we will take all the warmth we can get.Basement 025

Gus installed a chimney chase on a spare of the moment whim and shingled it with cedar shingles. It’s nice to have We will probably do the gable ends with the cedar singles as well. We are hoping that will match the house well.

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We still have one long piece to install on the north side but we are leaving it until we finish putting up the chimney pipe and chimney cap. I’m hoping to do that in the next couple of weeks. We also left the west porch roof without tin so we could work on the gable end without having to slide off the tin.

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Underneath the porch we are putting 4 inch pine soffit. Under the rest of the place we are going to put cedar. It takes a while to do but we think it looks pretty nice.

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We started hoping to be into a simple place by last April. We then adjusted to this log home and was hoping to be in by October. After missing that deadline we hoped to be in by Christmas. That’s not going to happen now but we are thinking we might be in by the end of January.

I suppose we may miss that deadline as well but I’m thinking if it’s not ready by then I’ll just move in anyways. I’m sure I could survive with some warm blankets. At least I’ll have a door on the place to keep the coyotes out.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Economics of a small farm

Are nerdy accountant type folk allowed to be farmers? I hate to admit it but I’m not a very good farmer nor am I educated or experienced in such realms. One of the most looked at posts on The Simple farm is when I discuss whether land can pay for itself. So I assume some of you must be of the nerdy influence as well.

My day job includes mostly financial skills and with that background I always find myself crunching numbers on the feasibility of various profit centered activities.

For instance, does the time and effort it takes to keep a flock of chickens have the potential to make it rich if we just stick with it?

Or how much garden area would we need to plant to have a viable long term chance at quitting my day job and doing it full time?

Or maybe, just maybe, if the stars align we can earn a living raising super duper grass fed and finished beef? I mean, some people are making money doing this right?

Well over the past year we’ve had quite an eye opener on how much money, effort, and luck it takes in various farming activities. Let me list all the things we were tangled up in:

  1. Planted a fairly decent beginning size garden
  2. Bought a Jersey milk cow which also came with a steer. We milked the cow morning and night for several months until we dried her up as she calves in early January
  3. Acquired a flock of 30 chickens (give or as a few died and we just picked up a few point of lay hens). About 19 of them are laying hens
  4. We (Milly) butchered 15 roosters. (Remind me to post on that. I wasn’t there as I was away on business (which is a rather sore topic) but she took pictures and gave me vivid details of the process while I ate pizza and watched TV in my hotel room. (Opps, did I just confess to that out loud))
  5. Harvested and stacked around 25 acres of hay
  6. Started building a farm house
  7. Picked berries in the river bottom
  8. Blogged about the experience
  9. Picked herbs and plants for medicinal purposes around the area
  10. Moved several…well used (I didn’t want to use the word decrepit) buildings for farm animals to our place
  11. Built fence to keep in farm animals and another fence to keep out wild ones

Well, I’m not sure if you’re impressed with the list above but I’m pretty dang tired and I’ve worked my wife and kids to the bone so I assume the above is a pretty good list for one spring/summer/fall seeing that I still held down a full-time day job as well.

So where do the numbers come into play? If you are starting to shake and sweat with me even mentioning the phrase expense and revenue I’d suggest skipping to the end of this set of posts to read my summary.

This is your last chance to bail to the end. I mean it. I’m going to get really boring. The following is the stuff Milly asks me to talk about at night when she can’t sleep.

Yuck, Numbers Type Stuff

OK, if you are reading this you are either:

  1. An accounting nerd
  2. Glutton for punishment
  3. Deciding if any of the above activities are worth it
  4. Have done any of the above activities and are wanting to compare my experience with yours
  5. An accounting nerd

So, for those brave enough to still be reading this I will make an attempt at determining a profit and loss number for each activity.

Assumptions: To be fair I’ve included as revenue the amount of money we would have spent if we wouldn’t have done each activity. We didn’t really sell anything as I’d rather keep anything we produce than give away our best source of fine quality delectable's.

Please don’t question my numbers too closely. I’ll admit we are hippy, granola type folks that like good local food and we’ve gone to great length and expense in the past to acquire such wares. Why don’t you plug your own numbers in as a comparison to see if I’m off my rocker.


We tilled and planted a garden 30 feet by 30 feet. We knew we wouldn’t have that much time this summer so we started small. Next year we will probably double the area at least. We probably have enough seeds left over to do a good portion of our planting next year. We’ll have to take out the fence and put in a new one but I seem to find posts and wire all over the country side.

Potatoes $150 50 lbs @$3/lbs
Carrots $75 25 lbs @$3/lbs
Onions $25 25 lbs @ $1/lbs
Squash $2 2 lbs @ $1/lbs
Parsnips $20 20 lbs @ $1/lbs
Peas $4 4 lbs @$1/lbs
Tomatoes $40 10 lbs @ $4/lbs
Watermelon $0 Cold summer
Summer Squash $40 20 lbs @ $2/lbs
Beans $10 5lbs @$2/lbs
Beats $20 10lbs @$2/lbs
Radishes $6 3 lbs @ $2/lbs
Total Revenue $392  
Seed $150 (didn’t use it all)
Tilling $40  
Fencing $50  
Gas $100 Probably low est.
Labor $1500 – (That’s just ridiculous. I’m going to keep out labor but you get the point) (2 adults, 50 hours a piece in total @$15 per hour. No child labor included)
Total Expenses $340  
Net Profit $52 Yippee


So was planting a garden worth it? Financially speaking, probably not. We didn’t have to go to the grocery store at all for about 5 months. I like that a lot. I hope to grow enough in the future to last me the whole year. We will continue to do this. We like growing things and find great self fulfillment working with our kids in the garden.

How big would you have to be to make money at this? I’ve been to small farms that are at full capacity for one to two people that plant 2 acres worth of garden. But that takes all efforts in managing such an area for the one to two people.

I’ve estimated that such a farmer, one who sells their wares at a farmers market, would roughly bring in around $4000 worth of revenue per month during the growing season (that has a lot of assumptions along with it as well). I’d guess expenses would be around $1000 per month. So not too bad of an income I suppose as long as you don’t include labor numbers. And that is probably only for about 5 months worth of time.

I could go on but you are probably already tired of this post.

Milk Cow

We bought a 6 or so year old Jersey cow in June.

Selling raw milk is illegal in almost any state or province in North America. There are also quota’s sold to dairy farmers so to get into this business is rather difficult. I’ve confessed some nefarious activities we’ve been apart of in the past regarding raw milk.

I don’t want to sell milk to anyone. I love our milk and I’m itching for the day I can start milking again when Rosebud calves in January. However for this exercise I’m going to include how much money we have saved as revenue.

Milk, Cheese, Butter, Kefir, Yogurt, Chicken feed, Calf feed, $10,800 Average of 3 gallons/day @$12/gallon for 9 months
Feed – Hay $750 $5/bale. 1 bale a day for 5 months
Feed – Treats $150 Alfalfa pellets, ets.
Fencing $100  
Purchase price Dep $360 $1800/5 years
Labor $8100 1 hour/day for 9 months, $15/milking
Equipment- Ropes, halter, buckets, sheds $300 Generously on the low side
Total Expenses $9760  
Net Profit $1040  


I fluctuate between really liking having a milk cow and wishing I cold just buy the stupid stuff. Having a milk cow has made it so we don’t have to go to the store. Veggies are important but if we didn’t have such an over abundant source of milk we’d still have to frequent the grocery store with out question.

We also wouldn’t use milk in nearly the quantities we do if we had to buy it by the gallon. We were paying $12 per gallon to buy pasteurized  whole milk so only bought about 3 or 4 gallons a week. Having a cow we use about 2 gallons a day on just drinking. ha. Not including butter, yogurt, cheese, etc. We also feed the chickens with the skimmed milk or butter milk. It’s hard to drink that stuff after having full cream Jersey goodness.

The negative part is the time commitment. Rain or shine or cold the cow needs to be milked morning and night. It’s also very hard to go away at all when the thought of Rosebud engorging by the minute is in the back of our minds.

We also have a ready source of hay as we harvested bales from our land this year. It would be way stressful if I had to pay $5 every time I throw a bale into the cow. I guess the hay really is costing me that much as I could sell it for $5/bale if I didn’t need it myself but it seems differently for some reason.

Everyone says a cow only needs like 18 lbs a day for feed but our Jersey is way more than that. All the old time farmer are saying we are wasting hay as the cow just poops it out but none the less we still feed her about 50 to 65 lbs a day.

In weighing negatives and positives I’d do the cow again.

To Be Continued

I’m going to need to break this post up. I doubt this post will fit on the blog it’s getting so long and I need to go feed the cow and chickens.

To Be Continued…

If you ever need a professional mover, I’m your man

I am honestly feeling like I’ve found my calling in life. After the big wind blew our grain bin/cow shed away we started looking for other accommodations for our bovine. The funny thing is it only took us a day to find this beauty. Not sure why everyone has spare buildings they are willing to part with but we are grateful none the less.

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You can see the beloved Jackall in it’s trusty place. I really need to get my own set. To move buildings you pretty well need two of them. Luckily Grey Beard has a set and quite graciously lets me use them…Along with his 4x4 truck. I need to get one of those as well.

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I tied onto the shed with some chains. I need to get my own set of those as well. Boy I’m a mooch.

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You can see here that I pulled a couple of posts out of the frozen tundra. I was surprised I didn’t snap the post in two.

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The new cow shed is now in it’s place although it’s a little short for a full sized cow. We may start looking for another bigger options but for now at least it cuts the wind and gives something for Rosebud to scratch against.

I figure if we do find something that will work better this shed can be an additional chicken house or something.

And then I’ll get to move another building. There could be worse talents to have.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Chicken eggs of all colors

I’m not much of an egg person. I like eggs in cookies and cakes but I sure can admire a pretty set of eggs when I see them. Here are a few eggs we’ve got this week. I’m not sure what we did to get such nice looking eggs but sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

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The blue and green eggs are from Ameraucana hens. The dark brown egg is from a Dark Cornish hen, I believe. And the light brown is from a hen we call white chicken as she is white.

As you see the yokes are pretty dark which is amazing as the hens really only get wheat and table scraps this time of year. I guess we also feed them the same hay we feed the cows so maybe that’s why they are so orange.

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These almost look good enough even for me to give them a taste. Almost.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Farm life is not always a bunch of roses

It’s been a rough couple weeks on The Simple Farm. I can’t even number all the disasters that have hit us as Milly may not approve of such intimate details. However, here are a few examples of what I mean.

You may remember this post where we take this lovely grain bin and haul it over to our place for a cow shed.

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Well, after hurricane strength winds hit us (I’m not joking here, 100 mph) we were decimated. Our hay pile is a mess along with an expensive bail tarp.

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And our once fabulous cow shed now looks like this.

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Oh, where did it go? Let me see…here it is. 50 meters away in a pile of rubbish.

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Our poor cows. Now they have to suffer through the –26c weather.

Monkey (the steer with horns) decided to start sucking again so we attached a calf weaner device. Serves him right. He’s a year old. Who in their right mind is still nursing after a year? That’s said tongue in cheek of course.

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Here’s an up close look at a calf weaner. It’s meant to stop the calf from getting to the udder. It works ok.

It was quite an adventure trying to insert this ridiculous contraption. I tried to rope the calf and stuff this thing in his nose. The kids and Milly were cheering for me and Ringo but after about 30 minutes of running around the pasture trying to get close to Monkey, Milly came out and tackled the calf to the ground while I inserted the device in properly.

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You can see the calf can still eat so we aren’t totally cruel.

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Minus 26 Celsius means no water from the hose. We now haul water from the tap and only put enough in the trough for the cows to suck down at that point in time.

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Milly has actually been feeding the cows and chickens as I’ve been away on business for pretty well two weeks. It sure is nice to have a better half that is tuff as nails as well. (most of the time that is. ha.)

And to top it all off, Ringo lost his front tooth just in time for Christmas. The other one is precariously close to coming out as well. sd 004

We’re hoping most of the natural disasters are behind us at this point. Surely one little farm can’t be plagued with too much more right?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Cutting Molly’s Rapunzel hair

I didn’t think it would be that hard to cut our little girls hair. Molly has been begging for a hair cut the past couple of months. We’ve tried to put it off in the hopes she would forget and give up on that drastic notion.

We think she wants the hair cut because Ringo gets to watch a movie whenever he gets a hair cut. ha.

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Almost makes me want to cry to see the picture below. Poor old sentimental daddy.

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The below picture reminds me a lot of Molly’s Great Grandma. It’s the exact expression I’ve seen a thousand times when Great Grandma has that twinkle in her eye.

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The finished product. My little girl now has her first major haircut done and gone. If this is as wild as it gets I’ll count my lucky stars as I dread the day when there are pink highlights and belly rings to deal with.