The weather is crazy, the pigs are almost done growing, we’re taking on a partnership with a nearby farm, and out on the pasture there’s a lot of rage towards feral dogs.
Or as we call it here on the farm: “Tuesday.”
NEWS FROM THE FARM
- What’s up with the pigs? The five piggies that are destined for freezer camp are finally… FINALLY… ready to reserve their on-way vacation. Yes, they were supposed to be Christmas hams for our customers. Yes, it’s now April. Unfortunately there was really no chance of them being ready for Christmas ham, because they were just not big enough to make it worth while yet. Someone may order a half hog from us, and if they don’t get enough sausage for a weekend’s worth of breakfast, that doesn’t do anyone any good. We knew that they were going to be a smaller breed regardless… but the size difference between where they were in November – and where Lollipop was at that age — was pretty significant. Now they’re getting to the point where sometimes I have to look twice to tell if the black pig with white feet is Lollipop or Harry. But since nothing is ever THAT easy on the farm, it’s worth noting that now the processor I wanted to use isn’t returning my calls or emails. <EPIC SIGH> It’s like Jack Spirko over at The Survival Podcast says… WHY DO PEOPLE HATE MONEY?!?!?
- Speaking of Lollipop. For the ongoing “things “late 90s, early 2000s JG” never thought would be in his future: having a stern conversation with a pig about her not showing her heat cycle, and having to negotiate with a nearby farm to send her on a romantic spa getaway to try to get her bred rather than AI’ing her. I mentioned this to some of my old USC buddies who knew me in my high end finance Marina del Rey – hanging out at the Bel Air Bay Club kind of days and they thought it was just about the funniest thing they’ve ever heard. And they about passed out when I continued on that I’ve been trying to woo this darn pig for months now. The little pigs are a lot paler colored so its easier to see when they’re cycling, and Ginny will go into standing heat for me. But that doesn’t do us any good. We want Lollipop for a breeder, not Ginny or the rest of the freezer camp crowd. So, Mrs Berg the neighborhood pig lady down the road from us is willing to work with us to see about sending her down there and hanging out with one of the un-related boars. At least get her bred, get her opened up with a first litter. Supposedly it’s a lot easier to spot a heat cycle in a sow than when they’re gilts. Then if she’s a good mom we can go and spend all the money on AI and start the genetic improvement project. If she’s not a good mom, or if there’s really something going on and she’s not going to be a good breeder, then…. well, that will be briefly sad. But culling and improving stock is very much part of the deal around here.
- Weather – It is indeed “Springtime in the Rockies” so that means wild fluctuations from blizzards to record high temperatures. Every year, it annoys he heck out of me to see all these folks on the regenerative agriculture or market farm Facebook pages with their beautiful fields of lettuce and kale, when we are just now in the last couple days getting the barest greening-up of our pasture grasses. Average last frost here between Yoder and Rush is in the may 11 to may 20 kind of timeframe. Sure it may be in the 70s during the day today but we have low 30s / high 20s and snow coming next weekend. Every year this happens, and every year people freak out on the neighborhood Facebook pages about how weird the weather is and how unusual it is to have blizzards that late.
- The other big fluctuation for us has been the amount of moisture. We were getting into some pretty bad drought levels on the official US drought monitor graphics. And then we got hit all at once with a bunch of rain and heavy slushy snow. Over in Colorado Springs, they actually ended up with so much really dense snow that it destroyed really quite a few trees, roofs, etc. The city even said that they had way MORE damage from the snow a couple weeks ago than last year’s 102 mile per hour wind storm. Weeks later, theres still broken branches lying in the medians. But you know what that means, once they collect it all and chip it? MOAR FREE MULCH! Because there is NO SUCH THING as too much mulch when you’re building soil. And free mulch is the best mulch.
- But one way or another, this is how things work in the mountain West of the U.S.. Average is just a number. Or as Brian Bledsoe, our favored meteorologist around here says, “Average equals “Too Much + Not Enough, divided by two.”
New Partnership with Ahavah Farm
The other awesomely big news for this episode is our new partnership program with Ahavah Farm over in Peyton! If you’ve listened to our earlier episodes, you may recognize the name. Ahavah is the farm that had problems with hail wiping out their outdoor crops twice, and later had problems with a nameless farm in the region turning them in – improperly, as it turned out – to the Department of Water Resources.
So why are we partnering up with them for our veggie growing? Well…. hmm…. now that I put it that way with their troubles last year, that’s actually a pretty good question.
But in all reality, distributing our CSA Veggie Season Pass operations between our Edison Road property and the Ahavah property helps in a couple ways.
First, after the near-miss with the DWR, they decided to get a commercial water agreement in place, so even though they were actually legal for what they were doing up to now – as we are – they will be able to expand to the point where agriculture is actually their primary income, and bring on employees.
Second, as I’ve said in the past about them, they’re about 3 years of soil growing and a bunch of money in infrastructure ahead of where we are at the Yoder property. So why not grow the greens, tomatoes, peppers – that sort of more delicate stuff – in their hoophouses and in their more wind-protected outdoor garden… and we can grow potatoes, sweet potatoes, sweet corn, other perennials like Asparagus, and all the meat products here. Especially pork. Because their farm is called Ahavah, which is hebrew for ‘love’…. so you do the math about whether they’re excited about raising pork.
Third, there really is a lot to be said for distributing the risk of storms and frosts a bit for both of our farm operations. It would be a pretty massive storm that wiped out both of us at the same time, because we’re about 20 some odd miles apart. We’re also really different microclimates. They’re in what’s called a cold-sink. They’re near the path of the Upper Black Squirrel Creek, and where water sinks to, so does cold air. Hot air rises, cold air sinks? Well, cold air will flow in valleys a lot like water. So they’re about 5 to 10 degrees colder then us. That’s great to keep greens from bolting, or putting up a seed stalk and going bitter, but it also means their outside stuff gets frost-killed in the winter earlier than ours.
It’s seemingly a win-win for both of our farms and really also for both our customer bases. Gray Area Farm Edison Rd customers will get a much longer season and wider variety of veggies. Ahavah’s customer’s will have the option of buying turkeys, meat chickens – and even pork, if they swing that way – from us…. in addition to the potatoes, sweet potatoes and sweet corn that Yosef and his team don’t grow over there.
What are some of the drawbacks? Well, like I said it takes about 25 minutes or so to get over there, so it’s been a bit of a commute to go over and work the early season veggies. The other challenge has been syncing up our religious duties. As a Jewish farm, they keep Shabbot, so no work on the business from sundown Friday through sundown Saturday. As Catholics, we’re in town at St Mary’s for almost all of Sunday morning with mass, Knights of Columbus and religious ed, then we do our shopping errands and family actitivities on the way home… and finally roll back in at like 4pm. So that’s been a challenge. Because if there’s any single “truth” in agriculture, it’s not a Monday – Friday 9-5 kind of gig.
Regardless, we think the positives outweigh the negatives so far, and it could evolve long term into a really compelling thing for both our families and all the real-food customers in the pikes peak region. I’m ALMSOT thinking that Yosef and I may start a second podcast about the transition into a co-operative partnership, with all the practical and religious kinks involved, but…. yeah, like we have time for THAT.