Past Months Moccasin Telegraph
We'll see if we get any Trick or Treaters. It's kind of rare
around here, especially now that most of our friends' kids are
grown. I certainly didn't get any over the weekend, up in a
backcountry camp where nightime visitors might even be alarming!
At least I didn't come across any fresh bear sign, but alas,
not a whole lot of elk sign either. I was checking out a "new"
spot, one where elk numbers might actually be up, due to wolf-induced
translocations. Or so rumors had indicated, although I'd call
them unsubstantiated at the moment. Yesterday reminded me why
this mountain range never supported particularly large numbers
of elk before. Frankly, the habitat's not that great. The forest
is mature (and then some) with very little grass growth, and
then you go almost directly to high alpine rocky stuff. The
lower-elevation meadows are a little too accessible,
in fact I was reminded why I'd pretty well sworn off hunting
places that are open to motorized use.
At least it was interesting, checking out somewhere "new".
It'd been a while... Plus I uncharacteristically forgot my camera,
which I thought would guarantee that I'd come across the mightiest
stag in the forest, but nope, wasn't meant to be.
That's not really what it's about for me anymore,
although given the opportunity... I'd said a while back that
at some point I was going to have to go up in the mountains
and unwind a bit. That's more what it's about. I used
to say it takes three days to unwind and shift gears, back to
the pace & rhythms of nature. Son Cody and I took what turned
into a 3-day'er opening weekend, and this last venture was only
a bit over 24 hours, and I'm still not quite there. And,
I don't even have a smart phone, and only rarely Facebook and
never Twitter, although we still seem to approach information
overload with some regularity!
So perhaps I'll have to bump that up to four or
five days. The camping and horse packing part of it is fun from
the start. Well, unless Strider starts bucking barely out of
the parking lot. Luckily he's not rodeo material, Buddy told
him to knock it off (and emphasized this by biting him in the
neck!), and things settled down.
I'd mentioned years
ago that one habit forming thing about the type of big game
hunting we do is a slightly altered state sometimes entered
when you're way up there, in the thick stuff, and get into the
flow, or the zone, where you stop thinking in words and are
just there, with all senses turned up to ten. I haven't
quite hit that point yet this year...
So although as usual plenty else went on in October,
I'm kind of in hunting story mode here, and this one doesn't
even end with big antlers on the wall (or meat in the freezer).
Cody and I packed into our usual haunts in the
Madison Range for the opener, 10/22. A Saturday opener, something
new, which I think I like. Anyway, we got to the trailhead a
bit late that Thursday. We've packed in the dark repeatedly,
but bagged it this time and climbed up on a high point above
the trailhead. Where you can see country that most fortunately,
isn't visible from the road. And lo and behold, there were elk
all over! Including some dandy bulls!!
So we "slept" that first night in the
horse trailer. Or rather didn't sleep, in my case anyway!
The damn horses kept fidgeting and clanging about all night
long, it seemed... Shortly before daylight, another pickup and
horse trailer pulled in. Cody and I both wound up visiting with
the guy, who was headed in to join numerous friends in a hunting
camp. Turns out he remembered meeting me twenty-some odd years
ago, up above the Beartrap, when a bowhunting client out of
Watson's camp (where this guy was guiding) got a helicopter
ride out after an evening horse wreck in Murkwood.
So Cody and I got on the trail not too long after
he left, packing three horses and hiking. Yep, I'm down to three
useable horses, plus the two 35 year olds, and we're thinking
after hunting season might be a good time to go horse shopping.
So if you know of a nice, big, stout buckskin mare with plenty
of mountain experience, and personality to boot,
let us know...
Anyway, our long-standing plan was that Cody was
going to bivouac out, while I tended the camp and horses, hunting
a bit closer to "home". He'd been intending to spike
out lower down on this ridge that leads up to the "luxury
suite" bedding area, but after seeing all those elk, he
changed his mind. The big boys are at the top of the crowd,
approaching them from below is a recipe for failure, so...
So he wound up "camping" at 10,000',
where it snowed for about three hours that night!
Opening morning dawned, with him in a position
where he could quite likely come home with one of the biggest
bulls in the Madison Range, at least once we got it retrieved.
Elk hunting is not an exact science however, and...
it turned out the guy we'd met at the parking lot, along with
a veritable crowd of other folks, plus four packstrings worth
of horses, were camped right in the bottom of this canyon which
must not be named. Right in plain sight of the elk! With lanterns
lit and stoves burning (sending smoke right up to the Luxury
Elk are not stupid. They clearly went "hmmm,
we're outa here!"
There was not a single fresh track in the snow
up there that morning. The elk had left during or prior to the
snowstorm. Where to...?
Well, the next canyon over is hard to get to,
a long ways from any direction, plus there's an outfitter camp
in it, and like I said, elk aren't stupid. So they probably
hit that canyon, and then went up. And up, and up some more.
Maybe back over the divide to the east, where there's some high
basins where basically no one goes.
Especially in years like this, with next to no
snow, I've mentioned before that the elk probably lounge about
up there and laugh at the humans down below.
Cody got back to camp at about 2:00 PM, just as
I was taking off for an evening hunt, up above the Boulevard.
Far preferable to getting up at 4:30 AM and hiking up there
in the dark, IMO. And sure enough, I got into elk! Not too many,
only ten. Five cows, four spikes, and a tiny little raghorn.
Off in one of those basins I'd mentioned, where perhaps the
only sensible means of retrieval would be a helicopter. If he'd
been a giant six-point, it would have been a much tougher decision,
but as is, it was a no-brainer.
Besides, I clearly need to make it out a few more
times, so that I can once again properly unwind, resulting in
greatly enhanced productivity! Maybe even get into the flow...
The sun's already set on September 2011, and
I didn't even take a picture. It didn't really catch my eye,
but at least I got this one a bit earlier.
I'm still not so sure about these shorter days.
Although the Farmer's Market season is winding down, the Bogert
one is still going (extended for two more weeks!). I think
I'm going to lobby that it end at dark, though...
Once it gets dark I'm still thinking bedtime is
near, but I suppose I'll adjust once farming winds down. And
we're getting there; got sorta caught up plowing today. I still
have a bit to do, but unless it rains it's just going to be
"spot" plowing. The only good thing about having very
little rain this summer is the weed growth is minimal. Well,
that and our spring wheat appears to be of exceptional quality.
Good thing, because it didn't yield all that well, but when
you're talking nice dark, heavy, decent protein organic wheat...
Discussing this with fellow rebels, it appears
organic spring wheat should be worth $12/bushel or so, which
is only one reason marketing it is way more fun than selling
to "Food, Inc."
Regular industrial ag spring wheat is worth somewhat
over $8/bushel (before discounts, which render that number completely
irrelevant), but I recently read an article that your average
farmer only makes about $1 on that, same as back when it sold
for $3/bushel! Ag expenses have gone through the ceiling...
But if you haven't spent anything on
chemicals or fertilizer, and are running a $1000 combine versus
a $300,000 one...
$12 isn't too shabby!
In fact I can't hardly imagine doing the other
model anymore, and have been told by some who are "this
isn't any fun anymore".
Of course the Tightwad Model requires
that you know how to turn wrenches. And occasionally scrounge...
I blew a combine tire early on, not exactly a
surprise. I'd replaced one of them a few years back, for ~$500.
I knew the other one was marginal, & had even bought a cheap
replacement at a salvage yard in Idaho (combined with a buffalo
robe tannery run) a couple years back. It didn't even last an
hour! It's hard to tell sometimes with farm tires...
Anyway, turns out new combine tires, even "smaller"
ones like mine cost $1200+ these days!! Good grief...
At least I've been aware that a fellow scrounger
(on a much larger scale), who's relocated to just over the hill
possibly had one. And, that almost turned into a minor adventure
in itself, possibly one of the funner things that came up in
Things like this uncannily often come up on late
Fridays, and when I called he was in St. Louis, retrieving a
'30's Lincoln. The following Monday was Labor Day (plus we had
two Farmer's Markets inbetween), & he wasn't going to be
back until Tuesday. And naturally, returned to pandemonium,
so I wasn't surprised to not have my subsequent calls returned.
Plus he has a reputation, although other family members are
outstanding folks we have a bunch in common with, so I know
what I'm into here. Plus he knows I know, and with that aside
we actually get along fine!
So after yet another Bogert Market Tuesday evening,
I decided to go up & drop in on him Wednesday morning. First
I scrounged through the fairly amazing collection of antiques/junk
around their shop. Nada, so the next closest alternative was
just a ways further over the hill, at an old homestead. That
was where it turned fun, and quite striking...
This place is definitely off the path, not in
sight of any roads (or vice versa). It's out along a stream,
east of Flathead Pass, but has a very isolated sense. It was
probably settled in the late 1800's, although discussing this
with another neighborhood resident she thought it was probably
early 1900's. In any case, you could just feel the
sense of history. I was really struck with how in some ways
things are incredibly different, and in some ways they're not
(in our case, anyway). Tracy and I talked about it, whether
things were tougher back then, or now. We agreed it was physically
tougher then, but mentally tougher now. Alas, we went over there
in his truck, and I didn't take my camera, tsk! I might have
to go back, one of these days...
So then I went to Plan C, yet another collection
down in Wilsall, and lo and behold...
Yep, that is a basically new combine tire behind
the old truck. For a mere fraction of the price!
Speaking of mentally tough, yesterday might have
taken the cake, though. This week has been disproportionately
meetings, which I still have yet to convince my wife are not
"time off". I won't even try with the first one, because
it was fun, although it's been tainted a bit since.
This was an actual government meeting (with FWP representatives),
which at my suggestion took place at the recently reconstructed
R Bar here in Bozeman. It was actually the first time any
of us had been in it since the prior one blew
up, but I may lobby for regular meeting location changes.
Not for morning ones, though...
We wanted to make sure we were all on the same
page before attending a meeting of the Madison Elk Working Group
yesterday. And although we knew the sales job was going to be
a challenge, I thought we were all on the
But then Tuesday had an all-day meeting, actually
a fairly good one, a business development seminar about building
essential "customer pillars". It touched on quite
a bit else, also though, like whether offering percentage discounts
actually makes sense, versus offering additional "freebies".
I still have to put a calculator to that one, in our case. Our
profit margin is a bit higher than "normal", I'd like
There were some ironies and tensions with this
meeting, as some of my dealings with the sponsoring entity have
been really good, and some of them really bad. Two different
people, but so far we seem to be able to separate the issues,
and so we'll see...
It was vastly preferable to yesterday's, at least.
I've been participating in this working group for six or seven
years now. At first it was just the Wildlife Committee of the
Ranchlands Group, but over time morphed into the elk working
group. It's been pretty contentious at times, but overall has
been viewed as a success by most.
Some would even say that for yesterday. Not me,
though. The main point of contention (for many years now, at
least for some) is setting a "population objective".
They've never technically had agreement on an elk objective
in the Madison, mainly because of the stunning diversity of
constituents, with widely differing views on wildlife. So when
the population objective subcommittee met last winter, I was
mildly surprised that we came to total agreement, in one of
the better meetings I've been at! Long-time, and old-time rancher
Kevin Boltz, who I enjoy mutual like and respect with, as well
as sorta-retired govt. employee, now ranch manager Ron Schott,
plus FWP biologist Julie Cunningham. Kevin, Ron and I unanimously
agreed to not agree on a population objective number.
The situation remains way too diverse, and besides, none of
us are down with objective based population "management".
In fact if anything, we should have minimum population
Of course that means the bureaucrats ("administrators",
not biologists) don't have hard numbers to work off, or at least
justify their actions, which they don't like.
I still think our suggestions make perfect sense,
though; going to more restrictive regulations on the public,
the mountains. As is, you can blast any elk you see (or even
two of them!), but we think it should go back to brow-tine bulls
only, with limited (or no!) cow tags. Down on the flats, primarily
private land where elk concentrations do cause problems, let
'em blaze away. And once hunting season finally ends,
mid-February, everyone agrees the hazer did an excellent job
keeping elk away from the (very limited numbers of) cattle.
So this idea of creating more of a "sanctuary"
on the public seemed like a win/win to us, and at the Monday
Rockin' R meeting we had consensus, or so we thought, from the
agency people and a rep from the other main sportsman's group
around here, a fellow long-time participant.
Except yesterday, gack... it still all
but nauseates me. They can argue that we still got something,
but the way it came about...
We got undercut at every turn. But at least one
person got what they wanted. A number. Not a population "objective"
at least, but a harvest target number. Pfffttt.... I
hope it was worth it.
Today has consisted mostly of wrench turning
and wrestling heavy iron about, until the last hour or so of
photo editing. Which thankfully almost never results in bloody
knuckles or profanity!
Well, at first I was having as-yet-unencountered issues
with getting photos off the camera, but didn't file any "error
reports", and went with Plan B, which worked.
As a whole, though, August was off the scale. Thank God,
we don't lack for material around here! In fact the far more
difficult decision is often deciding what not to include,
which this month might be most of it...
I've always said it's a really striking contrast
around here. If I'm at the desk it's 2011, but if I step out
the door I'm back in the 70's. Although the World's Finest
$1000 Combine is an '86, almost new for around here!
back in our former life up on the Hi-Line, our friend and neighbor,
plus in our case custom harvester Curt Halvorson also had a
White (actually red) combine of the same vintage, which was
the biggest rotary combine made at the time. So in a way it's
striking they were still making ones like ours at the same time.
And yet more thanks, it's still one of those you can work on
yourself! Luckily I've noticed a bearing or two out, before
things got hot. And was able to get parts no problemo, and replace
them with minimal bloodshed or blasphemy!
Putting the straw chopper back on today made me
grunt, and miss having a strong son around though. He's fighting
fire up in the Flathead, although Good Grief, there's
Weather Advisory for up there tonight, calling for up to
three inches of snow above 6500'!
Here in the Valley of the Flowers, I'm
beginning to think it might not even rain tonight. And if it
doesn't I'll get rolling on spring wheat tomorrow (until it
allegedly turns rainy again later in the day), but then the
next few days sound plumb nice, and so once we get that done,
press more camelina
oil, plus now the Farmer's Market season will be winding
down in coming weeks (until the Winter
one fires up), we might even have time to get back after our
far broader marketing plan.
This summer, we've been glad to be doing three
markets per week, though. In fact it's kinda made the difference.
Gotten us over yet another hump, so to speak. Plus you get to
meet an amazing assortment of people. One of the more striking
conversations up at Big Sky last week was with a "Business
Development Specialist", whose experiences with raising
operating capital for new entreprenurial adventures was uncannily
similar to mine. In fact he said "unless you're asking
for millions, forget about it!".
For better or worse, etc., we operate under the
"tightwad model", though, and it appears
we're past the "low point" of the buffalo thing going
away, and isn't it ironic that (among other things) selling
a few extra buffalo robes at the markets, plus some greatly
appreciated help from family, got us over yet another divide,
it appears. Plus our multi-year projections are being exceeded
so far, a trend I expect to continue, and maybe someday I won't
even have to be a tightwad anymore! Although, ahem..., that
is perhaps genetically ingrained, and it works for me, so...
Plus now it's Harvest Time, and it appears we've
missed yet another shower or two. Which is good at this point!
It's waiting until I'm through harvesting (at least if the Weather
Man is wrong again tomorrow), but then once I'm done with that
we'll get a nice soaker prior to seeding winter wheat, and then...
I might have to go up in the mountains and unwind
July was an exceedingly full month around here,
but at the moment I am primarily glad to be through haying.
Almost, anyway... I still have to get that last
load stacked. Not tonight, though.
Yep, we still pick our hay by hand. Unbelieveable,
I know. I've wondered about it myself at times, although not
I didn't grow up haying, and must say, it's still
not my thing. In fact, I've often said that it's possibly the
least productive use of time of anything I do! And, we've only
got about 40 acres of hay ground (thank God!), which
was originally mostly a soil-rebuilding project.
So, the Rockpile Ranch is definitely not your
typical hay ground. In fact, this is the first year I've put
up any hay in... let's see... is it three years? The
year before that we set a record (for the Rockpile), & got
30 ton of hay off the 40 acres. Most custom hay guys won't look
at a project unless it'll go at least 2 ton to the acre. Wisely
And we haven't even mentioned rocks! Oh, yes...
So the year after that Mother Nature was in a
mood (a late April "hot flash"), and I'd
mowed & baled long enough to realize the yields were atrociously
low, and then the $10 Baler broke. Knotter issues,
kinda serious ones. And last year, the tractor was broke, but
Thanks to the Yesterday's
Tractor site, I learned a trick for adjusting worn-out knotters,
further augmented with possibly providentially provided shims
I found, and...
The $10 Baler is working perfectly again,
the best since I've had it. In fact it might be good to go for
quite a while yet!
Picking hay, though... We've explored the alternatives.
Our son Cody spent most of his teenage summers working for Leonard
Reed, now 87 years old and still a noteworthy custom haying
contractor around here. And then Tom
LeProwse lives right up the road, and besides being football
coach at Bozeman for a long time, ran a significant custom haying
operation in the summers. So over the years I'd talked both
of them into giving it a whirl with their balewagons.
Once was enough! It totally cured both of them!!
You basically have to raise and lower the pickup
for each bale. Ordinarily you leave it down and roll through
the bales, but not here on the Rockpile...
So we pick them by hand. I dunno, some folks go
to the gym, but...
Although in a day or two I'll probably say it
wasn't that bad, at the moment, Tennessee
Ernie Ford is going through my head...
Just a little more on this haying thing, though...
Go ahead and laugh, maybe it's taken me seven years to learn
how to hay here on the Rockpile. Just yesterday at the Farmer's
Market I confirmed my opinions with another voice of experience,
Armstrong, who ranches further north off the west slope
of the Bridgers, and direct markets his organic grass-fed beef
all over (around here, anyway).
We agreed that at least one of the tricks is to
cut a little higher. Stay out of the rocks!! I only had to replace
one sickle section this year, mind-boggling
in comparison to prior years. So you don't get that last 15%
or so, but the stress level is reduced so much... And
there's a bit less to pick up! Plus my horses are feasting on
the leftovers. It's a no-brainer...!
In spite of how this has read so far, haying was
actually a fairly "minor" project around here this
month. We're doing three Farmer's Markets per week, plus Kim
did another in-store demo or two, and has some more potentially
quite good ones lined up.
Plus we had a successful debut yesterday for a
new line of Omega-3 granolas that Kim's come up with. In fact
they all but sold out, which is kinda striking for something
new... So it appears our "product line" has expanded
yet again, and in fact through the rest of the summer and into
the fall, we expect to add several of these items into the retail
At least now Bachman-Turner
Overdrive is going through my head...
Let's see... did we take any time off...?
Kinda barely. Kim and I drove up to Fairy Lake,
here in the Bridgers last Sunday. And wow, you talk
about a rough road!! I think I'd prefer hiking from this side,
and have talked with a couple of people who've done that recently.
One of these days, I might have to go for a walk myself...
Although it still definitely qualified as "work"
I did get in on a trophy bull bison hunt on the Flying D. And
the clients didn't want all the meat, so we have buffalo again...!
That turned into a long day also, as I was out
there at 6:30 AM. Got back here with the first one at ~2:00
PM, and they didn't arrive with the second one until 8:00!!
But luckily everyone rallied, and we got 'er done. And then
we had the Saturday Market the next morning, got the buffalo
clients loaded out later that afternoon, they pulled an all-nighter
back to California, & had it to their meat processor there
at 8:00 the next morning. Where it would still grade USDA Superlative!!
In fact Kim has just made a fantastic bison stir
fry, and I believe it's dinner time! See you in August...
Happy New Year!!
At least if your fiscal year ends 6/30. I'll always remember
running into our accountant/lawyer (and neighboring farmer)
Darrell Peterson at the grocery store in Cut Bank on June 30
many years ago, and being greeted with an enthusiastic "Happy
New Year!" Even Darrell agreed it wasn't exactly a
Holiday, though, certainly not in his case.
So our farm corporation is outdated in numerous ways, not least
of which is this fiscal year "deadline". Not that
it really matters...
But at least our other entities go with the December version,
which overall I prefer, I believe. Right now just isn't New
Year's Eve, as we're in the thick of it, definitely "mid-year".
Which is good! In fact summer arrived right on schedule, 6/21.
Prior to that it only barely qualified as "spring",
more like the monsoon season. But since it's been gorgeous,
and the plant growth is just exploding.
Backing up, though, we're glad the Farmer's Market season is
here again! In fact we started out with the Livingston one back
on June 1.
I just have to go off about this a little. See that cinder
block at the corner of our booth?
We used to spend half the year up around Cut Bank, so we know
about wind. Livingston is right up there also, although miraculously
it was actually quite nice on the opener, 6/1. I'd been wondering
about this, but arrived to only a mild breeze. Which can still
take an awning like ours above completely airborne!
But most fortunately the folks from the Western
Sustainability Exchange, who put on this Market are up on
these things, and graciously loaned us a couple of cinder blocks
and some rope.
I've brought our own since, although was having misgivings
about adequacy when I left for Livingston yesterday afternoon.
Solo, as Kim was baking. Right about then, 2:00 PM or so, the
wind started howling here in the Valley of the Flowers,
somewhat of a rarity. The National Weather Service still thought
Livingston wouldn't be as bad, though, and since I wanted to
stop by the Town & Country Grocery there anyway to pitch
(the two Bozeman T&C's are setting records!) I decided to
take a chance on it.
Which I was having grave misgivings about, especially when
the "dangerous crosswinds" sign was lit up along the
Interstate prior to Livingston. These concerns had not let up
when I pulled up to the superb market site at Sacagawea Park,
along the Yellowstone. Our booth neighbor, Laurie,
and an intern were setting up their canopy. With grim determination,
so I wandered over to the "office" and noted their
canopy was down. And then learned it had been crunched.
Literally tossed and bent. But since I was there already, decided
to forego canopies & take my chances, a decision reaffirmed
when the canopy of another nearby booth, securely anchored to
the vendor's truck bumper, also began to levitate, resulting
in widespread alarm!
So everyone bagged their canopies, and thank God I was able
to get some greatly appreciated sunscreen from the neighbors.
Because aside from that, it actually went quite well. We cover
our tables with buffalo robes, which I thought would be fairly
immune to wind gusts. Not completely, I now know, though. But
aside from the occasional gust, there was very good turnout,
steady traffic & decent live music and it was fun!
Turning back the clock again, though, as the month
went on the Tuesday
Markets fired up, and then in one day (the day we finally got
it in Rosauer's) Kim scored a coup with lining up a pile of
in-store demo's. In fact counting Farmer's Markets and in-store
demos, not counting since this past Sunday, we'd done thirteen
events in fourteen days. And although we're kinda tired, I have
to say that was fun also.
It goes beyond that, though. Years ago I saved
a essay from Big Sandy, MT organic pioneer Bob Quinn, "Why
I am an Organic Farmer". There's many striking points
in that article, but the following paragraph has stuck with
"Best of all, I sometimes receive letters
and words of appreciation from
my customers. I shall never forget the first time a lady came
up to me
at a food show, warmly shook my hand, and, looking me straight
the eye, said, “Thank you, thank you for growing the food my
eats.” As a grain grower, I had never received that kind of
before. The local elevator never treated me that way."
That's happened to us a few times in recent days.
You talk about encouraging...!! We've had a couple of people
call up out of the blue, who'd bought our camelina at the markets
or local stores, had been regularly taking flax or fish oils,
and are completely enthused with our camelina oil instead. So
like Bob, I'm not sure I've ever had anyone call up before and
say "thank you for doing what you do".
You gotta like that...
So although I had originally planned on going
on about the farming photos above, and could go on at length
about my enthusiasm for this organic model, that might be pointless
Although I simply cannot resist mentioning one
thing. In last month's column I'd mentioned we're experimenting
with using camelina meal as a natural fertilizer. Although getting
it to feed properly is problematic
in my air seeder, lo and behold, the classic possibly 40's John
Deere/Van Brunt disc drill feeds it just fine. Over a wide range
of application rates, and so... we might even have some data
to work off here in a month or two.
I think that's going to about do it for June,
Happy New Year!
Although I promised plenty of May flower photos
in this column last month, Mother Nature has just not been cooperative.
In fact I'd swear she's going menopausal, except there haven't
been any hot flashes. On the contrary in fact, it snowed just
above us here again over the last couple of days.
Although we did bring in some of Kim's tulips for a dinner
bouquet over the weekend, and let's see... other than some dandelions
I'd say flowers have been exceedingly scarce as yet.
So hopefully farming photos will suffice, as luckily
we have a fair number of those.
One thing I remain amazed at is the difference
between farming here in the Bozone, versus up on the Hi-Line
(or any number of other places). The window of opportunity for
spring seeding is SO much narrower,
it's no wonder most farms in the Gallatin weren't all that big,
a section or two usually. Versus up in our old neighborhood,
where the "normal" sized farm was 2500 acres or so.
We had a couple of neighbors that were more up in the 10,000
acre range, though. And then since there's been a couple more
up in that 40K range, although... they're mostly Colonies anymore.
There's a few bigger operations here in the Valley
of the Flowers, although not by Hi-Line standards. I shudder
The windows of opportunity for field work this
spring could nearly be measured in hours. Except I'll go with
days, although they could still be counted on Jon
Thank God I got my old
air seeder and plow back, and a decent 4WD tractor to pull
them with. At least we can get over the acres in a hurry now.
If I was still doing it with the heirloom '67 Massey and a ten
foot plow I'd have gone depressive. Although we are still going
to break that out, for seeding a bit of peas if nothing else.
To my surprise, I discovered my air seeder won't do peas. Smaller,
lighter seeds work fine, and we used to blow quite a bit of
fertilizer through it also, but peas... no way.
Oh, well. I'm not very enthused about peas anymore.
I'll probably still seed a few, although they'll almost certainly
get plowed down for a green "manure" nitrogen boost.
Unless Mother Nature decides that winter will be behind schedule
also. So if you hear anything about that let
me know. Otherwise, I'm not betting on it.
At least I am enthused, moreso all the time, about
interseeding clover as an organic nitrogen source.
The photo above is a field that was seeded to
quinoa last year, interseeded with clover. Clover is a biennial,
and doesn't get very big the first year. Although last fall
it was coming on strong, and remarkably suppressed cheatgrass
in this field. In fact I walked through it this past Saturday,
& I don't think there's any cheatgrass at all out there...
Not in that field, at least. But look at that clover! It's taking
off like mad. In fact I may leave that field to harvest for
seed. Ordinarily you'd plow it down for a significant nitrogen
boost, and I will do that with most of ours.
We're also experimenting with using camelina meal
as a natural fertilizer. And who knows, it even appears to have
weed suppression capabilities. We've noticed that camelina fields
tend to be cleaner the next year, & ...! Wouldn't that
We're also glad to be almost back to Farmer's
Market season. In fact the Livingston
one starts tomorrow, and the Bogert
market next Tuesday. And then the Saturday
market fires up 6/18. Before you know it, it'll be July, and
we're planning to also do the Big
Sky market, at least occasionally.
So we're looking forward to that. There's no markets
in later April through May, so you'd think it would have been
No way, though. Although I must admit that tractor
driving can actually be kind of fun, at least if you're getting
over the acres hasta pronto. And then on the rainy days it's
back to bookwork, most recently detailed monthly profit-loss
projections a couple years out for BiOmega3
and even more recently actually got a Business Plan down on
paper. I would never admit to bookwork being fun, although that
may have approached it.
And now it's supposed to be plumb nice, for at
least the first few days of June. Hopefully it won't warm up
too quick, particularly for those in floodplains. Mother
Nature's mood seems to be improving, though, and let's hope