Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Before I catch y'all up with what's happening around here....about stuff like the corn harvest, cattle wrestling, future plans, and just my regular ramblings about extremely interesting and pertinent farm stuff, I gotta finish working on this grant we're apply for. The deadline for applications is Monday, December 1 at 4:30 p.m.

Yeah, 4:30 is relevant. We need all the time we can get.

*huff and puff*

It's a SARE farmer/rancher grant. Two other local farmers and I are applying for money to conduct research trials using a cover crop and no-till techniques to control weeds in organic systems.

I'll fill you in on the details later, but you can check out SARE at: http://www.sare.org/

And you can read about what we want to do at: www.rodaleinstitute.org/no-till_revolution

But for now, I'm off and running.....

Thursday, November 13, 2008

We're Famous!

Ok, not famous. But we did make the local newspaper.

About 2 weeks ago, I received a call from a man with a heavy accent who stated that he worked for the Freeport Journal Standard and wanted to interview me about the farm. I asked him how he heard about us, and he responded that he had found our information on the new Local Foods Directory put out by the University of Illinois Extension Office of Stephenson County.

Score! My friend Margaret Larson, Extension's Director, worked hard to get the local foods directory printed in response to an increasing desire to support local producers. The directory hasn't been out much more than a month, and I was impressed by how quickly I had been contacted by someone who had found us through it.

But then I began to wonder how this reporter dude had chosen us over the many, many other interesting and varied farms listed in the directory. So I asked him. He said he was starting a new weekly column titled On The Farm, and I was the first person he contacted. He just picked us....no special reason, really.

Well, after chatting a little on the phone and again noting his thick accent, I asked him if he minded telling me where he was from. "Well, it's funny you ask," he replied. "I'm from Ireland."


"Now I know why you picked us," I laughed. "It couldn't have something to do with the fact that our farm is named Irish Grove Farms, now could it?" He chuckled and admitted that yes, that might have had a little influence.

Just goes to show that we should never underestimate the importance of a name.

We had a nice 3 hour visit where we grilled him on every detail of his life. And then at the end, we let him ask us a few questions as well.

This is what came of it: Making the Move to Organic

Check it out and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Monday Happened

Phew. Thank goodness it's Wednesday. 'Cause a few days ago, we had a Monday. And boy, what a Monday it was.

It's corn harvesting time, and it's been a tough season. We had an incredibly cool and wet spring, followed by a wet summer, a month-long dry spell in August, and then a return to rain, rain, rain ever since. The corn harvest started over a week ago and should take us about 4 to 5 days to complete, yet we're barely half-way there, thanks to this wet weather that won't go away.

I knew Monday was going to be hectic. I had a full schedule that started at 5:30 a.m., which included getting the kids off to school, harvesting corn all day, and work at Atwood from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. But Marcel had opened the lid on the bin for me, bless his heart, before he left for work and I was thinking I was sitting pretty.

It was cold, mind you. The temperature had dropped to the high 20's overnight, and that means the tractors must be plugged in to keep the diesel fuel warm. I was pretty confident farner Mark would start combining at about 9:30 or so, so I was planning on plugging the tractors in at 8:00, and even thought I could run to the store for some milk and bread before we got started. Just as I was brushing my teeth, at about 7:45 or so, I heard a knock at the door. Yep, it was farmer Mark, ready to get started.

"Well, yes, of course I'm ready to go," I lied, "I was just getting ready to go out and connect the tractor to the auger."

"Well, okay then, I'll get started." replied Mark. "I'll need a few more wagons out there in a minute or so."

Assuring him that yes, I'd get everything moving, I called my mom in a panic and told her I needed her to get Armando fast. Then I ran and plugged the tractors in. Maybe they'll heat up in the 10 minutes or so that it'll take me to run the wagons out to the field, I thought.

I thought wrong.

When I tried to start our John Deere, a huge, troubling puff of white smoke billowed out of the exhaust pipe as the motor slowly chugged, chugged, chugged....and nothing. Chug, chug again.....and nothing. Then I jumped over to farmer Bill's tractor that he had lent us. His tractor chugged a little more enthusiastically, but wouldn't start either.

The tractor motors wouldn't start, but unfortunately my motor was going strong, and the muttering and grumbling started tumbling out....

"I can't believe I didn't plug the @^*&#% tractors in earlier."
"I wish Mark would've called me and told me what time he was starting this morning."
"Where is my mom to get Armando?"

Well, Mom did show up pretty quickly and got Armando, and I quickly called Marcel to ask him what I could do to speed things up. At this point, farmer Mark had two of my four wagons filled and I was getting really behind.

Marcel told me to wait 10 more minutes and try again. So I did. But this time the starter motor was really sluggish, and I knew it was only a matter of time before I wore the battery out. I called Marcel back in 10 minutes, grumbled at him pretty good, and had him listen to the motor. "Yep, you're gonna have to charge the motor," he told me. Which incited some more whining, swearing, and general gnashing of teeth on my end. He walked me through the process, and after another 15 minutes and another full wagon of corn in the field, the tractor started.

Hallelujah, we're in business.

I quickly pulled the tractor out of the barn, got it in position to hook up the PTO to the auger, and quickly found out that the auger's arm that connects to the PTO was frozen. It should usually slide back and forth pretty easily to help you slip it over the PTO on the tractor, but this time wasn't moving an inch.

So now I'm really cussing like a farmer, folks. I call farmer Mark on the cell phone and, with much embarrassment, told him I couldn't get the auger hooked up. My thoughts at this point were going downhill fast, and consisted of some really mature things like, "I'm such a girl," and "God, I'm an embarrassment to myself and this whole family," and other nice things. Can you tell I was a little more than frustrated?

Mark came over, tugged and pulled, and finally pounded the ice out of the auger arm. We got the tractor hooked up, and I have to admit I was relieved to see him struggle with it and felt a little vindicated in my wimpiness. He went back out to combine some more, and I made an SOS call to farmer Bill....."if you're home, could you please come and help me for a little while?"

Just as I pulled up to the auger with my first load of corn, Bill showed up. Mark was pretty much waiting on me at this point, so Bill's help was going to be a godsend. I tugged and pulled and hung like a monkey from the wagon door that is soo hard to open, and finally started unloading the corn into the bin. And as the corn flowed out of the wagon, the relief flowed out of my body. Bill helped me get a handle on my Monday, and am I ever grateful.

I just hope we finish the corn harvest before another Monday comes around.

Oh, and Bill? Could you clear your calendar, just in case?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes We Can!!

It is a new day. A new country. A new world.

Oreo is on top of the world.
We did it!! We did it together.
And the whole world celebrates.

Beginning right here in Irish Grove. Hooray for President Obama!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Lining Up to Vote

Well, Election Day has finally arrived! What a relief!!

No more campaigning, no more lies, no more sleeze and smear, no more pandering, and no more 'gotcha' journalism. ('Course, in my opinion, if you get 'got' by the journalists who are clearly playing the game you signed up for, then who's fault is it?)

Election day on the farm is like election day everywhere else. It starts out pretty normal, with a morning stretch, a little breakfast, and a few laps around the barnyard. But then the last minute preparation begins. Time to get in line, go to the polls, and cast our vote.

You may recall that here in Irish Grove we've got some pretty civic-minded animals. They were very active in the primaries. And even though some of their candidates didn't make it through that process, they've pretty much thrown their weight behind one side or the other.

Of course, Lucero was always a McCain supporter. As he makes his way to the polls, let's see what he has to say about this historic election.

"Well, as you know, I'm a (racetrack) veteran, and we veterans stick together. The hard work and sacrifice that comes with defending the (winner's) flag bonds us in ways unimaginable to you petty civilians. Like John McCain and I say, "Farm first." Plus, Obama wants to redistribute our wealth. Ain't no cow gonna eat my hay."

Chip and Oreo, on the other hoof, support Obama. And they are getting ready to vote as we speak. I wonder what their thoughts are this morning.

"Todaaay is a day for the history books, and we are so proud to be among millions of goats voting for O-baaa-ma today. We want to improve the pastures for all faa-arm animals, not just for ourselves. And once in awhile, you know, you just go-otta eat a few bitter burdock leaves or bite into that thorny raspberry cane. It's painful, but necessary. We must keep the graaass healthy for everyone. Short term saa-acrifices for long term gains."

The other animals are getting in line to vote as well. Although your guess is as good as mine as to who they'll support.

The chickens had supported Huckabee, but he went the way of the possum. Flat as a pancake in the middle of the election super-highway. Think they'll support the Republicans anyways?

Of course, the cows wanted Hillary to win. She was going to shatter the glass barnroof that has enslaved the female bovine world and reduced them to little more than calf-makers.

They're obviously still a little peeved that she isn't the Democratic nominee.

But will they switch parties? I mean, could they find something in common with Sarah Palin, who doesn't want their daughters to know the real reason the bull is being so nice to them? Then again, there is that glass barnroof thing. Hmmn.

Unfortunately, Irish Grove isn't immune to the election-stealing tactics so common these days.

I'm ashamed to say it, but I noticed some illegal voter registration a few months ago. The goats were hosting a get-out-the-vote rally, and they added every single farm animal to the registration rolls.

Including the chicks,

and the calves.

Um, I'm sorry, but don't those voters look a little young? Quick, someone call the media!

And then there was the familiar, yet despicable voter intimidation that rears its ugly head every 4 years. Seeing as the farm animals can't read, some of us took to a more time-honored, old-fashioned way:

"You're gonna vote McCain or I'll......"

Shudder. You don't want to know the rest of that sentence. Trust me.

Oh, and I forgot one thing. Don't forget the hispanic vote this year.

That's right. Our own wonderful farmer, Marcel, is off to vote this year for the first time ever!!


Yes, good and bad, Irish Grove is like a little cross-section of America. And off we go to the polls. With pride, dignity and hope. To vote in the new leadership of our great country. May God help us all.