Sunday, November 24, 2013

Nature's pace.

Fall and winter on the farm give us a chance to try and live more at nature's pace. That's one of the reasons why I love this time of year.

Over the past few weeks, I spent a great deal of time with nature and at its pace. A friend and I stayed in the cabin and hunted deer during the first week of black powder season. I use an old school rifle, a .50 cal. Hawken. Although I have taken many deer over the years with this rifle, due to my advancing age (and not-so-advancing eyesight), I am not as successful with this open sighted rifle as I need to be. But in spite of the less than perfect situation, I was blessed with a good sized buck on Friday. My family will have venison this winter and I intend on getting at least one more before the season ends.

While spending time in the woods, I was blessed every day with different sights in nature. I was "hunted" twice by a large owl (while sitting motionless) and watched two coyotes, a blue heron, dozens of wild turkeys, hawks, and of course deer. All of this was at their pace, steady and natural. What a blast!

I have a book entitled Farming at Nature's Pace. It describes the difference between growing crops and animals at a slower, more rhymthmic pace (the old way), and most of today's commercial, hurried, high-tech methods. I prefer the former.

Splitting fire wood, making sauerkraut, preparing for spring, and feeding animals are things that are far more enjoyably done at a slower pace. I pray that God will help me learn to do all things at nature's pace and to enjoy all of His creation in the process.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Time flies.

This has been the fastest year of my life! It seems like we were just planning, preparing the soil, and planting. Now our garden season is just about done.

But first things first. It seems that not many years ago I was witnessing the birth of our second child, our son Cody. Now he is a twenty year old young man and married to a lovely young woman, Rachel. This week they were blessed with the birth of their first child and our first grandchild, a beautiful baby girl. Stella Grace has added a wonderful new twist to all of our lives. We are blessed!

On to the less exciting but still important farm stuff. I planted our garlic today and covered both the garlic and our small strawberry bed with wheat straw. The only outside garden plants left are broccoli, cabbage, spinach, and some Swiss chard left from the spring.

I have planted a cover crop of oats and crimson clover on most of the garden and also in a fallow field next to the high tunnels. Speaking of which, the tunnels have leftover peppers from the spring and a fall planting of tomatoes.

Time flies and before we know it, we'll be planning, preparing, and planting for another year, God willing. But this year we will be enjoying the company of Stella.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Changing seasons.

The last month has been interesting and somewhat unusual. We harvested honey from two hives. We took about 60 lbs. of honey from my oldest two hives...then, three weeks later, one of those hives and another weaker hive crashed! I didn't see it coming and really don't know what caused it. I don't use chemicals in my hives (no antibiotics for nosema or synthetic drugs for Varroa mites). We do use thymol, a naturally occurring material in hives, for Varroa treatment. But, for some reason, two of the hives became too weak to defend against the hive beetles and wax moths.

After freezing the woodenware to kill any offending pupae, I cleaned them and will use them next season. The two remaining hives appear to be strong, although I do see some hive beetles.

We have harvested most of our summer vegetables and are planting fall crops along with some late tomatoes (in the high tunnels). We have also finished our last batch of broilers, due to lack of freezer space. The hens are slacking up on egg laying because of the decreasing daylight hours. The sheep and goats are doing well and we're done with pigs until the first of next year.

So we are definitely changing seasons here on the farm. This past week has been cool and comfortable, although I know the dog days of summer are still to come.

This is one of the reasons that I love farming. You can feel and see each season to its fullness. My daughter and I have been collecting sumac berries and other natural dye materials that she will use to dye her handspun fibers (Editor's* note: More info and photos of that process will be posted on Kristin's blog over the next week or so). For the first time in several years I am looking forward to hunting season with my son. I hope to find time to dove hunt (though I'm not very good at it), deer hunt, and maybe even set some traps like I did as a younger man.

So even though we still have plenty to do, the seasons are changing and I am ready and excited. I thank God for allowing me to participate in all these changes.


*A bit of shameless self-promotion here, considering Kristin is the "editor" and typist. :)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Now, after weeks of working and waiting, we are, thank God, beginning to enjoy the harvest. The older I get, the more amazing this whole "plant a seed, watch it grow" thing gets.

I grew up following my dad, Len Herndon, through his garden. I did what he told me to do: helping plant, cultivate, and harvest without much thought as to why and how it was done. Now years later and without all of the knowledge that was lost with his death, I am doing the same things. I wish that I had paid more attention and asked more questions.

This year God has blessed our labor. We have had plenty of rain and good, hot, humid weather. The day we pick our first "real" tomato is almost like a holiday. Now we have fresh snaps (green beans), squash, peppers, garlic, potatoes, and tomatoes.

The privilege to work and take care of our small piece of land is a gift that I count very highly. There is a Native American proverb that says, "We do not inherit the land from our forefathers. We borrow it from our children." I like that.

Plant a seed, watch it grow. I like that, too!


Thursday, June 13, 2013


Excuse me for not posting lately...we have been extra busy and it's been hot! The farmers' market crowds have been small, but the good news is that the people who come have been buying.

We have just begun harvesting from our high tunnels, and so far the bell and banana peppers are our best performers. Tomatoes are on the way, but our summer squash has been a disappointment.

We processed, locally, two hogs for customers this week and still have two more to go. Since we are chemical free, I am experimenting with other things to keep our grape crop healthy (no fungicides!). So far they look pretty good. If these other natural sprays work, I will divulge our secrets at a later date.

We processed our second batch of broilers last Friday (June 7th). About an hour into the processing, the electricity went off. We rushed out to borrow a generator and just as we were pulling back in the driveway, the power came back on. We only had to pluck three of the 98 chickens by hand. Thank God for modern conveniences! (Some of them, anyway.) We only lost about an hour of work time and finished the task at hand.


Friday, May 31, 2013

Interesting week...

This past week has been interesting (and hot!). We now have two high tunnels on our farm. Due to the rush of getting some crops growing there, I did a less than perfect job of properly preparing the beds. So this week I put a straw mulch down around the tomatoes in one of the houses. The temperature in the high tunnel (with the sides up) was 95 degrees.

On Tuesday, while working in the grapes, I killed a copperhead. I usually don't kill snakes, but copperheads are an exception. We've killed several over the last few makes you pay attention as you walk through the grass.
Upon arriving home for lunch, Lisa told me that my nephew's wife, Jennifer, had called to inform us that their bees were swarming. So before I went back to the fields, I checked our hives. Sure enough, we had a big swarm only several feet away from where the other swarm was last week. We caught the swarm and put a feeder on top and started feeding them. So far, they seem content in their new home.

We picked our first sweet pepper this week. I hope to have a limited amount of summer squash, zucchini, and peppers for the market on Saturday.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

I am a creature of habit. Most people are, and I know that all of the animals in my care are. They like to be fed, milked, watered, or moved to new pasture on a schedule. They wait (sometimes impatiently) for me and they expect pretty much the same time frame each day.

So Saturdays are different, because we go to the Danville Farmers' Market. This means that I get up at 5:00 instead of 5:30, and I'm basically feeding pigs and milking goats before light. "The girls" (my milk goats) usually give a little less milk on Saturday. (I guess that I wake them up too soon.) But all in all, they cooperate with this schedule change one day a week.

Being a creature of habit, I don't like surprises. But being a farmer, I have to deal with them pretty often.

We had a good day at the farmers' market yesterday and made some new friends. We then went to a birthday party at noon for my niece. That was nice, too! But when I did chores that afternoon, one of my yearling does had what appears to be a broken ankle. Although she is still moving about well and chewing her cud, I'm concerned about her. We will wrap the ankle and keep an eye on her for a few more days. This afternoon, she was out with the others grazing in the pasture and seemed to be coping well. We will know in a few days if she will be able to keep up with the rest. I don't like surprises, especially with the girls.


Thursday, May 16, 2013


This is swarm season for honey bees. On our farm, we have four hives and I have been watching them and checking the hives for signs that they are in "swarm mode." Yesterday I returned home from working in the vineyard about 1:00 p.m. and noticed more bee activity then normal and started walking towards the bee yard.
There was a large swarm about two feet off the ground, just yards away from the hives.
I already had a box prepared for swarms, so all I had to do was cut the limb and shake the bees into the box. All went well. They were still there today, which means that the queen was captured, too.

The bees are extremely gently when swarming. Standing among 30,000 bees and being able to catch them to keep is a pretty awesome feeling. Now we have five hives on our farm.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Opening day.

Saturday was opening day at our Danville Farmers' Market. Crowds were small, maybe due to the cold temperatures. But overall, we had a good day. Our friends at Shorty's Bakery helped out by taking all of the remaining eggs. They eat them and sell some for us, too. Thanks, Todd and Sandy!

After a day of rest on Sunday, work on Monday was cut short by drenching rain. We're not complaining about the rain, though, because a lot of the county is still in drought conditions. Hoping for sunshine this week as we will do our first chicken processing on Friday!


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Welcome to our blog!

Our farm is "branching out" with other products this year. Along with our tried and true items like chickens, eggs, and lamb, we are now selling pork and some vegetables. We have raised pork for the last two years, but it was only available as whole hogs, halves, and quarters. This year we will still do that, but we will also be selling individual cuts from the farm and at the Danville Farmers' Market.
We also set up two high tunnels (see photos at the bottom of our photo gallery) for season extension vegetables. We already have tomatoes planted, along with sweet peppers and summer squash. The warmth of the tunnels gives us a head start on warm season plants. We will also be selling lettuce and mesclun mix. A new year and new ventures...we're excited!

These pictures show a cover crop of Austrian winter peas and oats. We always use cover crops to build the soil. The "new" ground will be tilled for more vegetable beds and the "old" ground is planted with buckwheat for our bees.

I'll try to post regularly with updates. The Danville Farmers' Market opens on May 4th! Hope to see you there.