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The Moccasin Telegraph
he phrase "Moccasin Telegraph"
dates back to the frontier days, around the time the telegraph
lines were being strung along the railroads. The standing joke
was that news spread much faster via the person-to-person grapevine
gossip channels, especially since the bison found the new telegraph
poles made superb scratching posts and the lines were often
down. Phone service is arguably somewhat more reliable these
days, but even with just a "dumb" phone the grapevine
functions just as well as ever. So, from time to
time (actually monthly, for a long time now) we'll
pass along some things we think you might find interesting.
The old frontier is dead, and we might not even be on the new
frontier of the information age, but we're glad to report the
Moccasin Telegraph is alive and well.
Happy New Year!!
Well, almost... 2017's not quite over. It's been generally
good, though, and we've even lucked out with the weather in
recent days. In fact this morning, it was zero here, but at
least no wind. Unlike much of the rest of Montana, where the
chill factors were absolutely brutal. We're talking minus
forty to fifty degrees, farenheit chill factors!
At least here the sun came out fairly rapidly this morning,
and it's basically gorgeous out.
This is a photo of the local elk herd, that
I got this morning. They're no doubt looking forward to 2018!
It's supposed to warm up next week, and the "shoulder"
hunting season ends today. I don't think that's been a big
issue for them, and they tend to hang out where there's no
access. Still, they should be able to relax a bit more...
I was lucky to get that photo this morning,
as I'm otherwise a bit short of photos for December.
There's some history here, though, at the Dry
Creek School north of Belgrade, established in 1901! This
event is the "Christmas in the Country", a sales
event put on by a couple of the "Women of the Dirt"
that we've long been associated with. This was in earlier
December, on a weekend with no Farmers Markets.
They've been doing this event for quite a while,
and along with lots of other craft and food items, they sell
our camelina oil and granola! Quite well...
So, looking forward to 2018, we expect to get
notably more products into the stores, and will be pursuing
some substantial outlets for the camelina oil! Never a dull
So again, Happy New Year, and we're looking
forward to 2018!
Well, November has been quite variable!
Not even just the weather, although that's been notable.
This was back on the 7th, the first notable
snowfall this fall! And, it was noteworthy...
Not just the accumulation, but it rained first, which resulted
in the bottom layer being mostly ice. I regularly check the
avalanche reports, and to some extent that's been a good thing,
as it resulted in a solid base layer, well adhered.
Down here it was a bit of a pain, though, as
even once the upper foot or so of snow had disappeared, we
still had a layer of ice that made just walking from the house
to the barn or "bakery" (our old meat plant, now
commercial kitchen/oil processing facility!) all but hazardous.
You about needed crampons, but at least I only fell down once,
with no harm done. Well, other than spilling the cat food
in hand, which was on it's way out to feed the new barn cat.
But, that's no longer necessary, as it's disappeared. I think
our two main cats, Abby and Punkin put the run on it. Territories...
And, at least Abby and Punkin are regularly reducing the mouse
population around here!
Although we got an inch of snow again recently,
and perhaps more this weekend (although nothing significant,
they think) it had basically cleared off. In fact some days
almost felt like summer! And amazingly enough, it did get
over 70 a time or two out in eastern Montana, but at least
not here. We got over 60 a time or two, though.
At least it wasn't that warm when I took this
photo, back on the 23rd. This was up along the north end of
the Bridgers, looking west out over the Valley of Flowers
over toward the Tobacco Roots. Great country...
Not just weather, though, business has also
been interesting. Oil sales have been going well, not just
restocking grocery stores and individual orders, but a surprising
amount going toward pet use, which could expand dramatically.
Plus, we set a couple of records for sales at
recent Farmers Markets. Gotta like that...
Plus we have some fresh meat in the freezers,
and while we could probably think of at least something to
complain about for November, that is useless, so won't bother...
Here it's the end of October, Halloween, and
I was going to joke about it being the "last day of summer!".
Except I see I already did that last month, and now there's
no question about it. Yesterday was gorgeous, but now we're
already getting snowflakes, and unless the weather man is
wrong (NEVER...) it's going to turn completely ugly
the next few days.
At least not quite as bad here in the Valley of Flowers
as up north in our old haunts on the Hi-Line, where they're
talking a foot of more of snow (down on the "flats",
way more up in the mountains, and temps by the weekend
down in the single digits. Tsk...
But at least I've just gotten done with "pre-winter"
chores, and don't think I've forgotten any...
Just got the ponies home, and have their winter
meals stacked in the barn. And now my back isn't even hurting
I know, it's not that big of a load, of very
good quality local grass hay.
So after I'd gotten it transferred into the
barn, I swept off the trailer and left the "leftovers"
outside for the local deer, which are in abundance lately.
And that's a photo my wife Kim got a few mornings
back, just one of several back-yard deer, but one having a
staredown with Punkin, one of our cats, who isn't intimidated
by deer at all!
But then we haven't had elk in the yard, and
I kinda wish we would, but...
These were just down the road a few days back.
Only a small part of a herd of a hundred or so, and I suspect
they're not all that happy with the weather forecast either!!
So we'll see...
It appears quite certain we're on the verge
of winter, though... At least I got the tractor chains moved
indoors, and God forbid, could plow the driveway if need be
in coming days.
Unless the Weather Man is wrong...?!!! Let's
It's the last day of September, or is it the
last day of summer, or both?
We've had noticeable rain lately, in fact some of the most
in the State. And now, within minutes, it's going to start
raining again. Although this afternoon into the night, we're
supposed to get the most around, but then Monday and Tuesday
it's north central Montana that's allegedly going to get ~6"
of snow, with little to none down here in the Bozone!
That's OK, we already had a whiteout back on the 19th!
This photo doesn't exactly capture it, but the
snow/ice/hail pellets in the air almost qualified as a whiteout!
A couple inches of white stuff on the ground, that doesn't
exactly fit most "normal" criteria. Definitely not
snow, or hail, or not even "rain", just a combination
that's very hard to define.
But then this was a neighborhood field of corn,
back on 9/17.
That's still out there, unharvested, but at
least we're supposedly going to get something less than a
foot of snow in the next couple of days.
And there's major potato harvest going on here
in the Valley of Flowers of late, but at least most of the
wheat and barley are already in the bin. Plus of course camelina
has been harvested some time back, although ironically we're
about as low on oil as we've ever been, but that's due to
remarkably good sales of late!
We'll get more bottled up here shortly, although
perhaps not this afternoon...
At least we won't be shoveling snow!
But at least I've been stacking a minor amount
of hay recently. Good to get that done, although the horses
will likely still be out on pasture in the near future. They're
loving that, and you can kinda see there's two slightly different
batches of hay on the ancient Ford pickup, and so I'm supposed
to see which they prefer.
The deer in the neighborhood don't seem to have
a preference. That's not a minor committee!!
There's more deer around here than there's ever
Still, the "hunting bug" is settling
into my psyche in a big way of late, but I'm more interested
in elk. None of those in the yard lately!
But then I was recently asked where we mostly
hunt elk. Again, it's mainly up, slightly south of Amnesia
And again, where exactly is that...?
I can't exactly recall..
And now, August is almost over also! And just
like last month, it's hard to not whimper about the heat,
and especially the smoke. Except September will be cooler,
At least these deer were enjoying the shade
in our back yard one afternoon, about mid-month. And, sticking
an ancient camera through the blinds of our dining room window
didn't even alarm them. I know, recurrent themes, but the
deer are thriving in this neighborhood anymore. My horses
tend to stick to the green grass along the tiny creek just
north of here, but the deer seem to wander quite a bit more.
Although I'm glad my horses can't jump fences like the deer
But then our son Cody won't be jumping fences
with his new truck either. No, it's not brand new, but he
got a very good deal, buying this directly from an individual
who'd taken very good care of it. An older mechanic Cody consulted
with agreed, and although it's ~ ten years old, has fairly
low mileage and a great Ford diesel engine! Maybe even better
than the vastly more ancient Ford diesel in the background.
That's "my" truck, similarly bought from an individual,
a neighbor from an associate of mine who's a retired wildlife
biology professor. He'd been recommending I check out his
neighbor's truck for some time. It's been OK, up until late
last week when suddenly the rear U-joint went out.
I always say that school never lets out, and
now I've learned how to remove a rear driveshaft from an old
Ford, and perhaps even better, after calling numerous vehicle
salvage operations around the State, got referred to an excellent
operation nearby in Belgrade, Powertrain Plus, and amongst
numerous phone calls today just got a call they have the driveline
That was simultaneous with another phone call,
the second one today from local women with horses, who want
to give them camelina meal as a supplement this coming winter.
It will be winter someday, right...?
But then this photo, from back at dawn a few
mornings back doesn't really show the smoky skies, but it
does show Cody's customization of his new truck. Having a
painted bison skull up front, on a nice red pickup...!!!
At least he hasn't reported any wrecks from
other drivers staring at his front end! Still, that makes
this truck a "one of a kind"!
Gotta like that...
Well, July is almost over. I'm wishing I could
say the same thing about summer, but no way. Not to whimper,
but I'm getting to be over the heat. At least we still don't
have any fires in the neighborhood, although today the smoke
has come in like crazy! In fact, with no warning I suddenly
got a nosebleed while eating lunch. A minor one, but still,
I haven't taken any hits to the nose lately, so I'm thinking
it must be the smoke. Very strange...
At least this photo was back when the air was
clear. The grass growth in our pasture might have set a record
this year. I've joked about the grass being chest high, but
in places it's actually chin (or even eye!) high. The critters
(at least the ones that eat grass) are loving that. And again,
we're commonly having deer in our yard.
This was looking out back one morning. No, it's
not your typical manicured yard, but the deer don't care.
They're loving eye-high grass!
So should my horses... This time of year we
pasture them just north of here, and suddenly this afternoon
I noticed all three of them were out. Thankfully I noticed
that before they went on a tour of the neighborhood, raced
over there, caught Buddy and brought them all "home".
I'm not fixing fence in the 90's, and talking with a neighbor
or two, we almost wonder if someone didn't open a gate over
I'll find out in the morning. It's not like
computer problems, which are rampant today, but hey...
In some ways, I'd much rather deal with horses
and fences. You don't have to call tech support for that!
Just a hammer and staples, and wire & a stretcher. A fence
stretcher! Not one you lay on...
Happy New Year!
Well, not quite... Our farm corporation fiscal year ends
today, so it's kind of a New Year tomorrow. And, we're doing
Market tomorrow morning, which has been good for years,
but now that we have Commercial Kitchen certification Kim
has a lot more stuff there, and our sales are great as a rule!
Can't think of a better way to start the New Year!
And, here it's late afternoon, and just saw a bunch of mule
deer bucks walk by, and head out into the field just across
the road. It's normal to see them first thing in the morning,
but mid to late afternoon is kind of unusual. Still, the wildlife
is thriving around here.
This was right in our back yard, at sunrise
back on 6/24. Took this photo out our dining room window.
This young buck and a likewise young doe had made themselves
at home here. In fact, later that day I went out to the barn,
and spooked them out of this lean-to.
They not only love the amazing plant growth,
but you can't quite see our horse waterer just behind these
plants, or the salt block just out of the photo.
The plant growth is amazing this year, and seems
to be a couple of weeks ahead of normal. Far better than the
disastrous drought conditions in northeast Montana, and sympathy
is sent that way. Although, it's supposed to be pushing 100
degrees later next week even here. Not looking forward to
At least this is the only fire we've had on
our property this year. Just burning some tree trimmings from
last summer, and just after decent rain the night before.
Had the trimmings under a tarp so they were dry, and with
a little gasoline, they went up in short order. I definitely
wouldn't do that in hundred degree temps with wind, though...
Not the best photo, but this buck was right
out front this morning. That stuff is likely going to enhanced
as wildlife habitat in the future, and so we'll have an official
wildlife sanctuary right out front. We have tons of wildlife
already, so... That will be Great!!
But first, time to get back to getting stuff
ready for the Market tomorrow. That is Great also...!!!
Yep, it's a Happy New Year!!
Well, May has been interesting as usual, a
basically good month.
We haven't been able to train Milo, our barn
cat, to drive tractor, but he enjoys soaking up the sun on
the old '52 International. This photo was taken May 1, so
the month was off to a good start. Milo also commonly sleeps
in our "newer" '67 Versatile. Although, he wasn't
in it in this following photo...
This was when we'd first gotten plowing, back
on May 4. That was good, but then the "rainy season"
hit. Farmers never complain about rain, although it kept us
out of the field most of the rest of the month, until just
recent days. Talking with other farmers, just this morning
in our old neighborhood up on the Hi-Line, that's been a common
situation around the State.
At least the grass is thriving! Took a little
tour up on the Flying D Ranch back on the 21st.
The bison are loving that green grass also!
This solitary bull apparently doesn't even mind
dandelions! I'm not crazy about them, although have been told
they're quite nutritious. But now, I about better go get after
some yard work. After some oil bottling projects...
See you next month. Have a good one...
It's still springtime here in the Valley of
Flowers, although there's actually some flowers that are blooming.
Although not in this recent photo of the "backyard"!
Significantly greener than last month, although
I should have taken a photo a few mornings back, when we had
~4" of snow! That rapidly melted, but along with notable
rain just in the last few days, the rain gauge says...
And actually that's evaporated a bit, as of
this morning. It was closer to 1.8" yesterday, but at
least it's not raining yet today. Except farmers never
complain about mud, right?!
Snow we can complain about, but rain... never.
Well, not even if it's May (tomorrow) and we all but haven't
been in the field yet, except my rule of thumb is that you
don't plow if there's puddles in the driveway, and plowing
if it's going to rain within hours is useless. Although soaking
things with chemicals...
I'm just not into that, and speaking of healthy
food, we had the last seasonal Winter
Farmer's Market yesterday.
Very good turnout, and that's the "Dirt
Farmers" playing in the background, which is beyond appropriate!
Although many of the vendors are likewise, and for a former
meat cutter and musician who still has all his fingers...
Anyway, most of the vendors gave produce to
the Dirt Farmers, and as usual, the connections are good.
In fact, some of the contacts from yesterday could be near
Ahh... Things have been going well!
And at least we're a day away from April Fools Day, although
we're doing a Farmer's
Market tomorrow morning, and are looking forward to that.
Not just because of our normal sales, but as I touched on
earlier, we'd applied for a long-overdue Commercial Kitchen
certification, and were immediately approved!!
That is a big deal, and so now my wife will have
some other items at the Market, particularly nice hot breakfast
items. Plus we have a great location, right when you enter
the old ballroom at the Emerson, and we may need a mat out
front in case people are drooling!!
Aside from that, though, spring seems to be arriving early.
This photo was here in the "back yard"
earlier in March. Little to no snow down here anymore, although
in spite of what you'd think, mountain snowpack is "normal".
But, although it's been mostly balmy the last couple of weeks,
prior to that was wet (mainly snowmelt) but just in the last
couple of days we got more rain than anywhere else in the
state! The weather report from yesterday said Bozeman, up
at MSU set the daily record with a half inch of rain. But...
I was in town early yesterday, and we were getting a virtual
downpour out here, and I know we got noticeably more than
in town. Time to get a rain gauge out there!
Speaking of spring, though...
This was in the actual back yard a morning or
two back. We've had birds like crazy in the neighborhood!
Lots of eagles, hawks, ravens, cranes, and then pigeons, robins
and a wide variety of smaller birds. This one was singing
loudly. That's common. When I go out to feed horses &
various other chores before it gets light, there's often birds
calling out like crazy! I've commented that I often get a
good vibe when I first step outside in the morning, and that's
part of it.
It's not just birds, though...
This is just across the road out front, part
of the farm that the deer are loving! We see them out there
almost every morning, and it's not uncommon to have them here
in the yard. And also, the elk have shown back up. Myself
and others around the valley, who used to commonly see elk
on a near-daily basis were wondering where they'd gone. But,
a biologist called a couple of weeks back, after having just
flown here on the west side of the Bridgers, and yes, she
saw ~300, with a couple hundred of those basically here in
the back yard. And now, I'm seeing them again regularly...
Gotta like that!
And then, this was the first rainbow of the
year, just northwest of here yesterday morning! I'll take
that as a good sign...
But then, besides massive bookwork (good progress
on taxes, among other things!), our demand for camelina
is thriving. Thankfully we now have a massively higher capacity
seed cleaner, but the last couple of days I've resurrected
the ancient (40's!) Vacaway cleaner, which I've joked might
have been the best eighty dollars I ever spent. It still works,
although prefer the big one, although that's an outdoor operation,
so when it's raining in March...
This works, still... although I'll be glad to
get the big one running (or at least vibrating!) again, but
a few other projects loom first, so for the moment...
Functional antiques are good. Hopefully in April
we'll at least move up into the 70's, though. Not counting
computers, of course!! Although at least in my case, might
not quite be up into the teens yet! Except for our great laser
printer, and just printed a batch up recently (yesterday!)
upgraded labels for my wife's line of granola's, among other
things, and those will be going off to the State for approval,
Not April Fools Day, though!!
Whoa, I though I was only one month overdue,
but it turns out it's two months?!
Well, it certainly hasn't been dull around here, and at the
end of the recent months the schedule has overflowed, so...
Just today, we crossed a major deadline, or (I'm lacking
words...) made major progress, which has been in the works
We finally got our application in to the Gallatin
County Health and Human Serices department for a Commercial
Kitchen certification for our on-location facility. Of course
it's been certified in various levels since... way
back in the 80's, but my normal line on this is "some
people think farming is dull!".
Not me, however.
Although, this facility is not specifically farming related,
unless you ignore that perhaps my best teacher ever, Van Shelhamer,
not only taught me carpentry, but a spectrum of other things,
back up in the Conrad Vo-Ag progrm in a previous life.
Still, he taught me how to build this facility up to multiple
standards way back then, and it's been approved by numerous
State and County agencies ever since...
And now, we expect that to continue...!!!
That is a goal that cannot be easily summarized, although
it's already made various internet facets, which I don't normally
post on. Won't go there...
No, I far prefer reality, which in this case makes one possibly
Yes, we've just turned another milestone, and although I
thought about taking photos in the GCCHD office this afternoon...
No, I'd have probably been arrested!!
Better to toe the line, which has worked for... (wow!),
is it a lifetime...? Or in this specific case, at least going
on 35 years...
Happy New Year!!
I know, I'm late again, but better late than never right??
At least this photo was back in early December,
before winter hit.
Unlike now, although it was -26 a couple of
weeks back, on a Saturday morning when we bailed on the Winter
Farmers Market. Except we've heard since, a couple of other
vendors had record sales that day! Amazing...
But... we're going sub-zero again this week,
although unless the weather man is wrong (impossible!!!) it's
supposed to be a little warmer Saturday, for the next market.
Except here's what it looks like today, and
the ancient '52 won't start. Have checked out batteries, and
connections, and even wove the magic wand, not to mention
just had a cat sit down on my desk, but I'm not going to take
a hammer to that tractor today!!
Still, 2017 has been kinda OK so far...
Happy New Year!!
Whoa... a day late!
That hasn't happened very often over the years (or decades!).
But it did this time. Just got back later yesterday from a
venture up north, to Great Falls. Go ahead and snort (not
whiskey, though...), but I don't have a laptop, although the
wife's just croaked. Was technology jinxed in October...?
Anyway, given the locations I wouldn't have been able to
use a laptop to update the Telegraph anyway. Yesterday was
full of surprises, and I think I'm almost over it. Really
glad to be back in the Bozone!
So although October wasn't particularly a technology month
for me, at least I got some important things done that haven't
changed since... Wow, for a long time!
Got some good hay laid in, or rather stacked
in the barn, for the ponies. Not too bad, but still a bit
of a workout! They're enjoying it, though. Not to mention
a bit of organic barley in the evenings.
And, although we're a bit late for various reasons,
son Cody and I are finally getting around to going hunting!
In fact he headed out this afternoon, so we'll see... Even
though we have experienced horses, if he gets an elk in this
spot, kinda south of Amnesia Lake (!) we'll likely be backpacking
it out. Tempted to say it makes my legs and back hurt just
thinking about it, but no, not really. Haven't hardly been
to the gym, although stacking heavy hay bales by hand might
Hope I get to find out. If not I might take
an overnight backpack trip up here in the back yard, so we'll
see. Wish luck!!
And now it's almost October?!
Not esactly hunting season (except for archery, and some
birds) but was just out the door and someone was shooting
guns regularly outside, over on the State land. I used to
do that myself, mainly up in our old Hi-Line haunts, which
is part of the reason I'm kinda deaf now.
What??? Would you repeat that?? Nah, it wasn't just gunfire,
but too much electric guitar and machinery operation. Which
I thought I might be doing the latter of again today, but
it's looking like tomorrow instead.
But at least I don't think we're going hunting tomorrow.
Although just went and checked the horses, so once we get
some shoes nailed on, might be going back up in elk country...
Except haven't been seeing the elk here in some time. And
not just me, others aren't also, although they've been hearing
some bugling, at least...
At least we've been seeing tons of deer in the neighborhood
of late, and even have them in the yard regularly at daylight.
That was just barely at daylight a couple of
mornings ago, so not the best photo...
This one got lightened a bit...
What, it's almost September??
At least our Farmers Markets have been going very well!
And this was the Car Show on Main Street, always good...
And, as usual anymore we have tons of deer in the neighborhood...
Be careful out there!
Don't throw any cigarettes out the window...
We have a Red
Flag Warning for fire danger, calling for extreme
Stepping outside, I'm not surprised. 96 degrees, very low
humidity, and wind. Even first thing this morning, stepping
outside it seemed surprisingly hazy over the Bridger mountains
just east of here. In fact I was concerned there might be
a fire up there, but just checking the INCIWEB
site, it appears the only local fire is still the Blue Lake
one south of Ennis.
So, although we're kinda short on photos for July, unfortunately
mostly for the local Farmers
Markets, which have been great lately!! In fact we've
been having record sales there lately. Kim was up a little
after 2:30 AM yesterday, baking, and she's consistently been
selling out lately. At least yesterday she had one
rhubarb tart left, which I claimed for breakfast this morning.
That and a piece of bacon, and then airing up ancient car
tires, checking horses, and chopping knapweed. I could go
on about that for hours, but no, we've been in contact with
the county weed board, neighbors and others, and we'll get
it done. Safely, without using chemicals where you're not
supposed to graze it for 18 months afterward, and if you do
graze it and put the manure on your garden, it'll be history!!
At least I also got this photo this morning,
although it's kinda minimal. We've had literally tons of deer
in the neighborhood lately, including lots of big bucks, both
whitetails and muleys! It's not just a field we had of camelina
last year, interseeded with clover. There's a great stand
of clover there this year, but the deer seem thrilled with
all kinds of other forage around the neighborhood. And it's
not just here, I've been talking with other folks further
north, and they're seeing the same thing.
Although none of us are seeing elk lately. They've
clearly moved up on the mountain, and hopefully are enjoying
the shade. I need to do that myself...
Happy New Year!
At least if (part of) your fiscal year ends today. For our
ancient farm corporation, that's the case!
And, it's looking like some good developments are in the works...
For June, though, I don't have a lot of good farming photos.
At least this one is way better!
This was from a brief outing Cody and I took
earlier. He fished (successfully!) and I basically hiked around.
Again, this was kinda out there south of Amnesia Lake, although
this photo was from up on top for Fort Rock, nearby to where
Lewis & Clark passed through a bit over 200 years ago!
To some degree, when you're out there, it almost feels like
At least in their journals, as I recall, they
don't mention a lot about thunderstorms and lightning. We've
had that in a major way lately, in fact we got struck last
Friday. Tripped all our breakers and ground fault outlets,
but at least we got them re-set without much trouble. Except
for our internet access... I re-booted our router and network
repeatedly, and we thought our wireless antenna was probably
fried, but it turned out to just be a minor junction box connecting
the antenna to the router. I'd joke about magic wands, but
it was actually simpler than that.
Except last night... gads... more of the same.
Except we didn't have a direct strike that time. Still, it
freaks out the animals to a large degree, which majorly disrupts
sleep, but hey...
Farmers never complain about rain, right? Snow,
we can complain about, but rain...
Never!!! Even if it's only a bit over a tenth
of an inch, with major lightning and thunder... At least no
direct strikes. Not right here, anyway... Unlike last time.
And we know of someone down the road who had two cattle killed
in a previous storm this year. At least my horses are OK...
Spring has definitely sprung here in the Valley
of Flowers! At least we lucked out and got just shy of
an inch of rain in recent days. I've gotten our pre-plant
plowing done, and am bartering for organic barley seed (a
win/win!) and will be getting that in the ground in the next
few days. Plus we have a great stand of clover growing that
we'd interseeded with camelina last year, so we're getting
a major nitrogen boost out of the air, basically for free!
Plus the grass has greened up amazingly here of late. We
made a trip up north early in the month, regrettably for a
memorial service for my wife's mother in Conrad. At least
that went very well, but from Great Falls north it was kinda
dry. Even then, it was green here...
Early in the spring, we occasionally let our
ponies out in the "yard", and I call them Lawn Mowers.
At least they'll be going out in much bigger pasture in coming
days, after I finish seeding and fix some fence!
So we haven't done much in the way of recreating
of late, but did at least take a hike up in the Horseshoe
Hills early in the month, before it even started greening
That's an ancient homestead barn, with unfortunately
a dead cow out front! Apparently had a calving mishap...
At least this is a better view, and now it's
Gotta like that, and with the recent rain the
grass is thriving. Should stay that way for at least the next
two months, right...?
So is March Madness about over? Actually,
it hasn't been too bad, just busy as usual.
That's good, though, besides bookwork, regularly pressing
camelina. Again, we're going through the meal like crazy!
And the oil...
But at least the weather's been highly variable. Almost needed
sunscreen a couple of days. The neighborhood old-timers have
told me the snow used to be up to the top of the fenceposts!
That's absolutely not the case anymore, but at least it has
been white a few mornings, and it is kinda muddy out there.
Farmers like that...!
Plus we've had an abundance of wildlife in the
neighborhood of late. Deer, elk, cranes, geese, and FWP even
shot a mountain lion just north of Belgrade recently. Some
of the Women of the Dirt had seen it prior...
That photo is just a small fraction of the elk
around here lately, but they're mostly smart enough to stay
out of photo range. That photo is arguably the best one I've
gotten, though... That was Easter morning. They must have
known it was a holiday, as they didn't even care about me
being within range!
So, we'll be farming one of these days. but
it's still snowing out there at the moment! Farmers in Montana
never complain about rain, and although we can complain
about snow, I'm not! Like it...
Happy Leap Year!!
Glad to have an extra day this month! Although it's feeling
more like April than February...
Not the best photo, but you can see the snow
has melted, and things are turning green. Ordinarily if winter
wheat started greening up in February, that was alarming.
Because if we get another sub-zero cold snap, it will "winter
kill". Although I've been talking with numerous people
about that lately, and everyone thinks the odds of that are
fairly low this year.
This photo was just yesterday, and you can see
the snow in our back yard, off the west slope of the Bridgers
is all but gone. What you can't see is there's a decent herd
of elk there at the base of the mountains!
But then you can see this one! Although there
were significantly other deer in our driveway a few mornings
back. They love the camelina I've spilled while cleaning and
pressing seed of late. So we have high Omega-3 wildlife in
At least it snowed (and rained) a little bit
last night! I don't think I'm going backcountry skiing this
Nope, an early lunch, then running some minor
errands in town, and then probably cleaning more camelina
seed. But when farming in February is fun...!!!
Happy New Year!!
Well, not quite... We've still got about six hours in '15.
But, it's been quite a year, which is mostly good! Although
it's been kinda wintry lately, but nothing like it was years
ago, when old-timers told me the snow was regularly up to
the top of of the fenceposts!
At least we have the '52 IH chained up, which
has been somewhat of a rarity in recent years. At least we
haven't had to fire up some of the other functional antiques
And also, thankfully, haven't had to haul grain
lately with this family heirloom truck...
So that's all good, and our prospects for '16
remain optimistic! Somewhat of a rarity in farming these days,
except even in the local Comical today there was an article
about how Omega3 supplements are critical, and that's a large
part of what we're doing...
So here's the sunset for 2015, and we're looking
forward to '16!!
Again, Happy New Year!
Good grief, actually missed putting up a Telegraph
last month. Literally the first time since back in the previous
Partly because we've just been too busy, and also somewhat
short of photos. Unusual, the latter part anyway...
At least just took this photo this past Saturday,
at a first-time Farmers Market at the Bozeman Fairgrounds
during the Holiday season. That was a great Market, in fact
we set a personal record for sales!
Aside from that (and numerous other markets!) we've at least
been attempting to get ready for winter, although I'm not
even slightly into the recent sub-zero temps.
At least we're stocked on firewood, with a significantly
bigger pile just out of sight, to the left of the garage door.
Gotta like sitting by the fire...
So again, we're kinda short on photos, which
is unusual, and this one was from last month!
At least Cody and I backpacked two speed goats
out of... well, kinda south of Amnesia Lake!!!
Great alfalfa-fed ones, plus now our freezers
are all but overflowing! Antelope, bison, elk, deer, pork
and lamb and...!! That might be it. Well, except for local
produce, Kim's baked goods, and... that might actually be
it. So we might even be ready for winter, except for adjusting
to the temps!
What, the Moccasin Telegraph is up a day early?!!
Mainly because I gotta go to Billings and back tomorrow, doing
another demo at Lucky's
Market! They're a great outlet for our camelina
But then it's been a small world as usual here today. In
fact a whole group of us could have easier met here today,
and exchanged organic barley, winter wheat, peas, camelina
That would have theoritically (in fact, actually!) fit with
At least today we weren't unloading "new" commercial"
Unlike last week, but that almost pales in comparison
to figruging out how to convert a three-phase commercial oven
to single phase.
Gads, I could go on for hours about this, but
Kim might have made a major breakthrough today. We've talked
with connections... well, maybe not worldwide. But one in
California today said to have our electrician talk with him,
and he'd explain how to do this.
Simply!!!!! For NO dollars!!! We thought that
might be do-able, but now we know...
Aside from that sort of thing, we didn't do
a whole lot of recreating in September. Here's a photo from
an afternoon drive here in the Gallatin, though, up along
Rocky Mountain Road.
And then just today, not even considering numerous
invaluable connections, selling locally produced, local agricultural
products, here's a photo of possibly the only incident I know
of where someone hauled organically produced winter wheat
in a Ford Explorer!
Almost laughable, but when you're getting ~$9.00
a bushel, versus ~$3.00 hauling it to the elevator...!!
Plus they don't take Explorers there....
What, the "dog days" of summer are
Let's hope so. We're tired of the heat, but the smoke...
has been off the scale lately, although not as bad here in
the "Valley of Flowers" as numerous other places.
Plus we only have one
fire going at the moment, although wait, there's still
remnants of another
significant one still kinda going...
In fact here's a (not very good) photo of that second one,
still smoking yesterday...
Cloudy skies are seldom, if never, good for
photography. Plus it was actually very slightly drizzling
rain in this one. Way more than welcome!!!
Still, all those hills in the background burned
during that fire, not quite 9000 acres worth, but thankfully
it stayed west of the Missouri River. Had it crossed, up into
(and potentially far beyond) where we took this photo from...
Our son owns property not far north of here,
and we're quite familiar with the Horseshoe Hills. Lots of
interesting history up there... We're glad it didn't get a
whole new chapter this month!
Disregarding the smoke, the Farmer's Markets
have been good, which takes up a lot of our time, this time
Those two new clear display cases up front make
a remarkable difference in our sales! In fact Kim's baked
good regularly sell out anymore, but even other vendors we
know report record sales of late.
Gotta like that...!!
Oddly enough, we still haven't harvested our
camelina this year. In fact, took a walk out there this morning,
and although it's ripening nicely, some of it's still kinda
green. That's beyond strange, but at least it's not just us;
virtually everyone else growing it is having that experience
this year, to my knowledge...
Oh, well, at least the clover we interseed is
thriving, likely due to all these late season rains we've
had, so we're getting a major nitrogen boost out of the air,
all but for free!! Beats the heck out of writing big checks
to the fertilizer companies... Plus of course weed competition,
and right after the camelina (finally!!) matures we're going
to get a killing frost, which will take care of the somewhat
unusual amount of weeds we do have, and then it'll be harvest
time, finally! Ordinally camelina all but completely suppresses
other plant growth, but with the dry start, and then a belated
"rainy" season, just prior to the inferno...
It's been a very strange year...
At least as usual, it hasn't been dull! Among
other August projects, our son Cody has been rolling on a
yurt he'll be building on property up by that prior fire photo.
And speaking of fire, there's even a slight bit of surplus
firewood in this trailer load of logs, although it's mostly
going to be a supporting frame for the yurt.
We've hauled plenty of big loads on that 24'
flatbed gooseneck trailer, but this one set a record for length!
It worked, though...
So again, hopefully the "dog days"
are about over, the smoke has largely cleared (Yay!!), and
the temps out there are tolerable.
Time to go bottle oil, and bag up seed and meal,
and... actually, that might about take care of today's list,
which even prior to lunch was quite striking, but
we're not going there...
Well, July has been a good month around here.
For one thing, we actually took a "vacation", which
had become an utter fantasy in recent years!
Except it was also a business trip, up to our old haunts
on the Hi-Line, but then through Glacier Park. Way
The above photo is of the Salamander Glacier,
up by Many Glacier, where I spent significant parts of my
childhood. The only kinda alarming thing is that the Salamander's
stomach appears empty these days. In fact they're still saying
all the glaciers might be gone in ten years or so, except
the weather man is never right anymore, which I hope
continues to be the case!!
So this photo was part of what made this vacation
a business trip! That's a field of camelina, up in our old
haunts under the Rimrocks west of Kevin. What is further amazing
is that we barely missed two significant fires, one of them
right in this neighborhood and the other one shut things down
on the east side of Glacier, literally hours after we passed
Luck of the Irish??
Maybe so. At least the following view hasn't
changed from my childhood (not to mention LONG before that!),
in the East Glacier Lodge.
It's absolutely amazing they built that place
going on 100 years ago!
People got things done back then also, not to
mention thousands of years prior...
It's the end of June, except the temperatures
have felt more like July or August the last couple of days,
pushing (or exceeding, in places) 100 degrees. At least the
grass is still green, so it's definitely still June.
I'm also thrilled about the condition of our camelina! I
was concerned, but just in the last few days it's exploded
in growth, canopied, is blooming and forming seed pods.
The above photo was a close-up, just this morning.
Backing off for the larger view...
Gotta like that...!!
It's also haying season, although the old timers
said you weren't supposed to cut hay until after the 4th of
July. But, given the weather. now is good...
One thing I'm shocked at is the amount of hay
leftover from last year, that never sold!
There's lots of stacks of last year's hay, like
the photo above. That one is a neighboring subdivision, and
the stuff to the right is this year's. Here's a better photo
of this years...
At least earlier in June, we did manage to get
out and do a bit of exploring. Another thing I'm amazed at
is some of the old homesteads, and how isolated they are.
My ancestors (on my Mother's side) homesteaded up in northern
Montana back in the teens, but they weren't nearly this isolated.
That one was at least a two-day horseback or
wagon ride just to Bozeman. Clearly, when the residents hit
town they stocked up, likely for months. Gads...
tough doesn't even come close!!
Good Grief, May is over?!!
That's OK, as things have been fairly favorable lately.
Things are amazingly green here in the Valley of Flowers,
but some think Mother Nature doesn't have a sense of humor!
That was looking up Spanish Creek, about a week
ago when I was out there for a road cleanup project at the
mouth of the Gallatin Canyon. It's just as green everywhere
in these parts, though.
Reinforced that opinion the last few days, as
took a "day trip" to Billings yesterday for another
demo at Lucky's
Market. They're a great outlet for our camelina oil.
But then went to Helena and back on Tuesday,
so we've actually been on the road a bit lately.
Thankfully not all on this!!
Although that's been fun also! There's our son
Cody and his Mom Kim on his '71 Honda, which he's out on again
Riding one of those over passes in Glacier Park
could cause flashbacks for me, but you can do a lot worse...!!
But then we've been having other flashbacks
in recent days, pressing camelina oil.
Except that photo was of something "new",
a recent herd of antelope that were thrilled with the recent
clover crop in our camelina stubble here on the Rockpile,
but less so anymore, that it's been sprayed with chemicals.
Not by me...
Here it is, the end of April, and just finished
mowing the lawn! That's record early...
At the Winter
Farmers Market, though, we often joked that March and
April had gotten switched around this year. March was shockingly
warm and dry, but at least in April we've gotten at least
slightly noteworthy amounts of snow and rain of late.
So, even though yard work is not my thing, I thought I'd
be farming before now, and was ready to roll early on in April.
In fact last year I finished seeding camelina record early,
April 12. My usual "rule of thumb" was I liked to
be rolling by about April 10 (although many years it was more
like the 20th), and be through seeding by May 10 or thereabouts.
Can probably still do that...
Although, actually made an overdue trip to the dump this
morning, out by Logan. Kind of an interesting tour of the
Valley of Flowers, with literally no one in the fields plowing
(one exception, right at the end, tearing up some stuff that
used to be organic, but not anymore, tsk...). Did see three
farmers spraying, with those enormous $300,000 sprayers. Anymore,
when I get a whiff of that herbicide, it all but knocks me
down. I got sensitized to that years ago, back when I was
still using it. We've been chemical free for ten years now,
but still, the slightest whiff of that and my body starts
But anyway, I'll get plowing tomorrow, and then seeding camelina.
Our camelina stubble from last year has a reasonable stand
of clover going. We interseed clover, not only for weed competition,
but to get a substantial nitrogen boost, out of the air, basically
Beats writing big checks for fertilizer and chemicals...
But I'll quit ranting on about that, although briefly, I'm
more into this organic model all the time. You are what you
On that note, this was the neighborhood elk
herd, back on 4/7. And then...
Not a very good photo, but a few mornings later,
on 4/12 we had nineteen antelope right out front here! Never
used to have antelope here in Springhill, although there's
been a few in recent years, and that seems to be increasing.
Although, I think we'll still put in for antelope permits
over by... well, kinda north of Amnesia Lake!!
We've recently learned of a grant-funded project
at MSU, to increase Omega-3's in the diet on Indian Reservations.
Generally speaking, those are not common anymore, which results
in all kinds of health problems. Doctors/hunting partners
I know who've done part-time exchanges, basically volunteering
on the Reservations have concurred on this for some time.
Diabetes and other issues are rampant on the Reservations.
Except, the initial research from MSU indicates that people
who eat wild meat, naturally high in Omega-3's, among other
things, have way better health than those who don't!!
So again, to large extent, you are what you eat. And if you
do it with respect, and are part of the "Matrix"...
So again, I was pretty much ready to roll back
in early April, except Mother Nature decided to mess with
the weather man again, and we got a major surprise back on
the 15th. The forecast was for an inch or two at most, but
we got about a foot of very heavy, wet snow as you can see
above. And there was sixteen inches by Sypes Canyon, just
south of here, and fourteen in Bozeman, and...
At least an inch of moisture, and then we got
another half inch a few days back, and perhaps luckily only
a few hundredths last night, when they thought we might have
violent thunderstorms and hail, so...
So we'll see what May brings. At least we have
neighbors in our old haunts up north growing camelina this
year, although it's been raining (and snowing) more here of
late. Oh, well... some people think farming is dull!!
Good grief, it's the end of March already?!
Except it feels more like June (or maybe even July) out there.
Have been running numerous errands all around the Valley of
Flowers today, and when I left Bozeman late this afternoon
it was 75 degrees! And... it's been over 80 out in eastern
Montana a few times already, and I saw 70's back in late January
up on the Hi-Line and...
We discuss this regularly with lots of people at the Farmers
Markets, among other places, and everyone is kinda alarmed.
Although that photo above was a demo we did
Market over in Billings, earlier in the month. They're
a great outlet for our camelina
Driving over there and back wasn't that bad
that weekend, although there was already significant dust
in the air between Laurel and Billings. Except that was dramatically
worse this past weekend, not to mention a couple of significant
I even hauled a load of barley over to north
of Livingston last Saturday, and that was borderline frightening
on several levels. Not only the wind, but some more of the
boards on our old flatbed trailer need replacing, and the
old '52 International almost broke through at times!
Got 'er done, though, and the price is so
much better than hauling semi-loads to the elevator (not to
mention no discounts!) that I'll still keep doing that.
So we also hauled an extremely unique load this
past weekend, and actually have it all indoors now. Almost
completely by hand, except for again, the '52!!
This one was mostly camelina, extremely clean
seed grade, organically certified... Plus some oats, wheat
and barley. A one of a kind situation, which I'm
not going into the details of here, since it involves a good
friend whose situation makes ours look... simple.
But at least we have functional antiques here
at the working museum, and perhaps one of the best
is this ancient seed cleaner, cleaning organically produced
barley in this photo!
We also have a much higher capacity one now,
from the old Cargill elevator up in Conrad, but somehow this
even more ancient one does a better job, although I'm still
in school about operating the big one. School never lets out,
At least I did manage to take a day "off",
and went for a hike up in the north Bridgers a couple of weeks
That's a State section I'm standing in, and
a private one to the right of the fence.
You tell me which is "better managed".
Not a bit of elk or deer sign on the State land, and I'd thought
about hunting (or at least taking an overnight backpack trip)
up on isolated parcels of public land up toward my back, looking
the other direction, but have kinda cooled on that idea. A
remarkable person (and steady customer) we knew used to
outfit up there, and did quite well.
I'm sticking with our "old" haunts
up by Amnesia Lake, though..
Alas, we're pathetically short on photos (and
even news) for February. Perhaps because it's a shorter month
than normal, right?
This photo is of the local elk herd (at least
some of them), back when it was still "springtime",
earlier in the month.
It's strange, basically all the elk and deer
are down on the flats anymore. I used to glass those open,
southwest facing slopes every day during the winter, and almost
always would see wild game. It was the "winter range".
That's changed, it seems. And yes, even now
that everything's white again, they're still down here. Even
though those southwest facing slopes clear off first, it doesn't
seem to matter. Some say the forage quality is better down
here on the flats, but there has to be more to it than that.
Some blame predation, but I have a little trouble with that
also. Yes, there's the occasional wolf pass through, but we
don't have a resident pack in this neighborhood. Some say
it's mountain lions, but in all my years hiking around in
the Bridgers, I've only seen a lion twice! And besides, if
their prey base is down on the flats, you'd think they would
be also, and we'd see them at times (or at least remains of
their kills), but no...
So, given the lack of snow, I haven't even been
backcountry skiing yet. Is "farming in February"
a borderline disorder?
Nah... We made good use of the nice weather.
This photo was just prior to filling a load
of tote bags with organically produced barley, for delivery
out by Three Forks. For a win/win price with no discounts!!
Beats the heck out of hauling it to the elevator...
Of course we don't do that with our camelina
either. We're also utilizing nylon tote bags for this, as
well as fully functional antiques to auger camelina into the
hopper above our oil press. Ordinarily we auger it out of
the truck, but this time of year we're ordinarily only pressing
a couple of totes at a time. We have plenty of oil on hand,
but are regularly out of the meal anymore, the byproduct after
we cold-press the oil. We're getting great demand for that
as an animal supplement, primarily chickens. But then also
getting substantial and regular orders for the oil also.
So when farming in February is fun, that's good!!
It's springtime already!!
Well, maybe not now, but it felt that way ealier this week.
I made a quick trip to the Hi-Line and back on Monday, and
our car thermometer said it was 70 in Ulm! And, it also apparently
hit or slightly exceeded that in Rapelje and another
spot or two.
That's incredible for January, and the grass is even greening
up here. We're still in the banana belt, although it's resembling
winter again in our old haunts up north, at least at the moment.
Still, it's incredible how warm it's been, and the effect
on the "snowpack".
I didn't even make it skiing in January, although our son
Cody made it up to Bridger
Bowl once. I'm told the snow up there isn't even remotely
the old "Cold Smoke" anymore, by the same people
who attempted to go cross-country skiing up Spanish Creek
yesterday, and basically found it devoid of snow!
Much like the southwest facing slopes here on the west side
of the Bridgers, which have perhaps always been winter range
for wildlife. Except they're not up there anymore! The elk
and deer are basically all down here on the flats, in spite
of being shot by road hunters with regularity of late. You'd
think they'd go back up on the mountain, but no...
Anyway, we've taken advantage of springtime so far, mainly
oil of late.
Go ahead and laugh, but we have yet to find
a more efficient power source for running our oil press than
the '67 Massey above. And this is something we've investigated
to considerable degree, for let's see... ten years now.
Although the demand for the oil, an outstanding
Omega-3 supplement has been good, anymore it's mainly the
meal, the byproduct after we cold-press the oil that we're
continually running short on. It's an exceptional animal supplement,
primarily chickens, but also a great natural
fertilizer. We even re-stocked Planet
Natural a few days back, somewhat unusual for January!
Except wait, it's spring, right...?
It still felt that way yesterday, when we were
setting up for cleaning barley in the photo above. This is
with the high-capacity seed cleaner we got a few years back,
when relatives tore down the old Cargill elevator in Conrad.
This amazing device was patented back in 1924,
only ~90 years ago!! Still works fine...
So anyway, when farming in January is fun, you
can do a lot worse! Hopefully February will be fun also...
Happy New Year!
Well, not quite... Plus we're still enjoying 2014, but '15
should be interesting also.
Our Christmas booth at the Mall in the photo
above certainly was, and I'm told I even wound up on TV! Not
available on the web, unfortunately, but at least I think
I shaved that morning!
We only did that booth three days, as the lefse
sold outrageously. Norwegian Holiday treats, plus of course
the camelina, both of which can be sold by Irish/Dutch farmers!
Montanans, anymore, thank God!
There's Kim actually cooking lefse, at the Park
County Christmas Fair over in Livingston. That was also a
very good event this year, with exceptional turnout.
That's partly because the roads weren't frightening
that weekend. Good thing, as we've completely sworn off going
over Bozeman Pass in those conditions.
We're so glad that event wasn't today, as we
hit -20F at bedtime last night. Except now we're back in the
Banana Belt, although I'm still not firing up the '52 IH today,
as the driveway's not all that bad. At least partly because
I plowed it back on Christmas, after chaining up, again somewhat
of a rarity in recent years.
It makes worlds of difference, though, particularly
when you have a layer of solid ice underneath, and we're still
very thankful we wound up with that set of chains. As I've
mentioned before, years ago we met the guy up in Cut Bank,
whose Dad bought that tractor new at Torgerson's back in '52!
He still had the chains, not to mention played
bass, and we should have written a song about that.
Still perhaps not capable of that, but the one
that's often stuck in my head lately is about "takin'
care of business, every day!".
You can do a lot worse...
Our son Cody even made it up to Bridger
Bowl, for a "Cold Smoke" powder day back at
Christmas! This photo was from the first cross-country ski
tour I've taken in a while, right here on the Rockpile, just
before we went sub-zero.
Yes, it's a functional museum around here, but
we don't still mow with one of those!
All the same, we feel/understand the connection.
Except back then, the snow was regularly up to the top of
the fenceposts, I'm told.
So farming wasn't dull,
even back then!
We fully expect that to continue. Forever, one
Happy New Year!
Seventeen below here this morning!
That's notably colder than what the weather
man thought might happen, and more snow to boot, but I
fully understand. Complaining about weather here in the Valley
of Flowers is utterly useless!
At least there's no wind, and even not that
much anymore in our old haunts by the Rimrocks northeast of
Cut Bank, unless the weather reports about that are wrong
The above photo was from another "surprise",
back before Thanksgiving. Between six and eight inches of
extremely wet, heavy snow, which almost unbelievably nearly
all melted within a day or two! So I wouldn't have even had
to fire up the recently repaired '52 IH tractor above, to
plow the driveway. After recently fixing an engine knock with
a hammer, though, that was almost fun...!
All the same, I'm very glad to not be firing
up any of the three '52s today!
But unless the Weather Man is wrong again (impossible!!),
we're supposed to be back in the Banana Belt by even tomorrow,
which is good, as we're heading over to Livingston next weekend
for the Park Country Christmas Fair. We normally have a quite
good booth there, although we've completely sworn off going
over Bozeman Pass when roads are icy, as we totaled our Explorer
doing that years ago on our way over for the Fair.
Barring having to chain up, that's a quite good
event, although we're torn, and would also like to head up
to Great Falls for the Montana
Organic Association event next weekend..
At least we don't have to drive the '52s to
either of those!! Or even slower; pack and ride horses. Still,
you can do worse...
This was back in early November, when the first
snow had just arrived. In fact we hiked quite a ways above
this photo, to retrieve an elk Cody had gotten the day before,
and snow wasn't much above ankle deep. Unlike now, the avalanche
danger was zilch, and the lubricant qualities were oustanding,
when you're abandoned the travois he used to get it down that
far, are backpacking about half, and dragging/sliding the
other pieces down to where horses can get to.
Anyway, you can kinda see why we call this place
No trick or treaters as yet, but that's normal here on the
Rockpile. Thankfully no zombies either, although I was shocked
to see a couple in town today! At least we probably do have
some ghosts around, in fact they're regular visitors here.
And, have perhaps been feeling a connection to some of their
times of late.
Actually made it out for a hike/hunt on the 28th, up into
old haunts here in the backyard. This is looking north off
a ridge, down into Springhill Community. Somehow, it's not
surprising this was a thriving community clear back in the
Even then, the reliable water flow powered a couple of grain
mills, cut wood, plus a brewery and years ago I had permission
on property, and saw the old Madame Moos cabin, reportedly
a popular stop for some, back in the day. Thankfully none
of those anymore!!
But then also had more recent flashbacks today, as we handled
We used to skin and quarter hundreds (actually
thousands) of those. Anymore we only do a handful, but Molly
is still thrilled!
Great grass this year, and that one is going
to rate somewhere far beyond Prime, or Choice.
Superior, or Off the Scale?
October was a full month as usual, but among
other things our son Cody lucked out with a couple loads of
"straw" bales. We need to come up with a different
word for that also, as they only resemble straw. They're basically
indestructible, and he's going to be building a "straw"
bale house out of them. Although it will more resemble an
adobe house, off the grid, and yes, basically indestructible.
Plus these are nice, tight, lightweight, super
insulative bales, a little better quality than we get out
of our fantastic $10 baler! Nah, these are from over by Harrison,
from camelina grown by one of our main clients for the camelina
meal, the byproduct after we cold-press the oil. It's a great
animal supplement, and Glenn Visser not only farms, owns the
store in Harrison, but also has a feed mill and goes through
a fair bit of camelina meal in chicken feed. Chickens thrive
on it, which results in high Omega-3 eggs, which humans also
So we should do OK with any zombies that might
show up tonight. Actually not concerned about that...
We're caught up farming. Well, field work anyway; seed cleaning,
oil pressing, and getting back in Marketing Mode looms, although
not today. Still drizzling out there...
Luck of the Irish came through yet again, as we
had all but no machinery breakdowns this summer. That's unheard
of, particularly with haying! Except today, our wireless internet
is out, apparently modem/router problems. Unfortunately, you
can't fix that with a hammer, and hopefully support from Blackfoot
shows up today, or the Telegraph might be late, first time
ever, since back in '01. <Update: they got
it going, remotely, 3:30 PM. Yay!!>
As I preliminarily guessed last month, we also
lucked out with the quality of our grain this year. That's
a load of winter wheat in the photo above. A good MSU public
variety, Yellowstone. The State Grain Lab concured with my
opinions, and it tested great! Test weight a smidgen over
60#, 13.9 % protein, sprout damage a miniscule .2%. Dockage
a whopping .3%, and Falling Numbers tested 348. Anything over
300 is good, so I'd say this rates Very Good!
That's extremely rare this year, given the substantial
August rains, and September was far from a drought also.
It's strange, I'm actually going to a Climate
Change Conference at MSU this evening, primarily about the
effect on agriculture. One thing... the last couple of years
in particular; humidity levels are way up there anymore, until
well into the afternoon. I mentioned last year, that back
when I was a kid we ordinarily got harvesting by about 10:00
AM, and normally ran until near dark, or sometimes a bit after.
These days, you're lucky to get going by 2:00
PM, and I don't cut on the Rockpile after dark! Sickle guard
breakage rates would likely go up astromically...
At least the snow, first of the season back
on 9/11, didn't quite make it down here into the valley. Unlike
across the ridge! People we know, fellow Farmers Market vendors
from over in the Shields got about 4", right down by
So we're also thankful for that, and even our
barley turned out all right. Haven't sent a sample to the
lab yet, but again, kinda know, and...
We have people that want it, and we're running
it through the cleaner. Firing up the big one, patented back
in 1924 tomorrow. We've ran a fair bit of camelina through
it, although this'll be a first (for me, anyway) cleaning
wheat or barley with the big one. That's mainly what it was
used for, back in the old Cargill elevator in Conrad, and
we have all the screens, so... Shouldn't take me too
long to figure it out.
This was when we finished harvesting, back on
9/23. I know, it's not the "conventional" model
anymore. You're supposed to have a $450,000 combine, and a
big semi truck or two!
Except the thought of harvesting with one of
those on the Rockpile absolutely makes me shudder! The Luck
of the Irish only goes so far...
Alas, we're pathetically short on photos for
Certainly had a plenty busy month, although we did rebel
and take at least an overnight camping trip, back on the 6th.
Figured we could easily enough get a campsite in one of the
three campgrounds up Hyalite, on a Wednesday.
Dream on! Luckily we found a nice, private spot
not far down the Gallatin Canyon, by Spire Rock.
So that was a vacation, albeit a short one.
Otherwise, it's work, work...
At least we're through harvesting camelina!
Still have some wheat and barley to go, but the weather man
sounds promising for decent weather this coming week.
Oddly enough, yesterday we got more rain here
on the Rockpile than perhaps anywhere else in the State. A
bit over .8" here, while not quite half an inch just
down the road at the airport, which was still one of the higher
amounts in Montana.
That puts us a bit over 3" for the month.
While slightly amazing for August, that completely pales in
comparison to rainfall totals in central
and eastern Montana.
We're talking six to eight inches of precip,
with up to ten in spots! What all but hasn't made the news,
is the effect that's going to have on the grain markets, with
most of the spring wheat harvest still in the works. Well,
not today, but...
Conventional wheat prices were already at eight-year
lows, not much over $5 per bushel, and now we're talking massive
discounts, and if it's badly sprouted, the elevators won't
take it at all. That is going to be a disaster for some...
Luck of the Irish, but I shelled out
some of our wheat and barley by hand, even studied it under
a magnifying glass, and no sprout damage. Plus of course we're
selling it mostly to the local Farmer's Market crowd, the
Women of the Dirt, etc., for animal feed. For of
course a dramatically
better price, with no discounts!
That photo above was one of the rare nice days,
during our first session of camelina harvesting and cleaning.
At least for a change, all the camelina we'll have on hand
will have been ran through the cleaner. Well, after one more
session, hopefully tomorrow morning, anyway... That will be
very handy, instead of having to clean it every time we want
to press a batch.
At least we're not doing that today, although
good grief, might need to get after bottling oil.
Besides doing yet another fairly good Farmers Market yesterday
(oddly enough the second one in a row in rainstorms!) afterward
we swung by Bridger
Feeds for a coupon bargain on dog food, and lo and
behold, they needed re-stocking with the camelina
oil. Plus we've also gotten it into another couple of
outlets recently, and Kim just called and Town
& Country needs more also. That's good...
While completely unrelated, this was one of
the only other decent photos from August. A Classic Car event
on Main Street in Bozeman. This inspires us that we should
paint some of our functional antiques around here. My Dad
actually painted at least the box on the '52 Ford grain truck
we're still using, way back when I was a little kid! We're
obviously overdue to paint the cab also. At least now it has
an electric fuel pump, which resolved fuel (actually lack
thereof) issues we've been having for some time. Plus we don't
haul our wheat over
the hill to Butte, as apparently quite a few around here
do. So I think we're good to go, even without fresh paint!
Gotta say, we're glad July is (almost) over!
Here's a very uncharacteristic photo from back on the 14th.
We have foggy mornings occasionally, but actually
got a photo of that one!
I think that season is probably over, for the
time being. Because it's August tomorrow. Harvest time, right?!
I all but kissed the ground when finished haying,
back on the 21st. As I mentioned last month, the old-timers
are right, you're not supposed to cut hay prior to July 4
around here. They even picked it by hand, like we do!!
We had two of the more significant custom haying
contractors around here attempt balewagon use here, years
ago. As I've mentioned, once cured both of them!
We'll likely go to a 90th birthday celebration
for one of them, Leonard Reed, at the local Senior Center
Sunday afternoon. He's still custom haying...
Perhaps luckily for both of them, he hired son
Cody away from a neighboring landscape outfit, way back in
a previous era.
Speaking of luck, I sold that last load, and
was more than happy to deliver it out by Clarkston. Beats
the heck out of loading and unloading it over and over again!
Again, some of the only high-end horse hay,
first cutting that didn't get rained on around here. And even
goats and cattle are thrilled...!
All the same, I don't foresee switching over
to a $75K big square baler anytime soon. We're still haying
with a '67 Massey, a '64 $10 NH baler, and a perhaps even
80's swing tongue haybine.
At least we're not still harvesting with one
Nah, looking forward to getting the World's
Finest $1000 Combine rolling again here shortly, although
it's looking like possibly into, perhaps mid-next week. A
bit of seed cleaning, oil pressing, and camelina hauling (from
right down the road, thank God!), is next on the
Even managed to get a prior priority crossed
off the list, which resulted in a camping trip to Kevin!!
Well, actually harrowing CRP, plus a meeting or three, at
least a couple of which actually bore resemblance to "meetings"
back in this era...
This cabin had been here since my earliest recollections,
in fact my parents used to visit the Olson's with some regularity.
They lived in a house just out of sight, not in this cabin,
Still, as a little kid I went up there semi-regularly.
As I recall, they were renting the property,
and it's belonged to the Bye's for a long time since.
Recently learned the prior history from a neighbor,
Griff Bye, and apparently this cabin, one of the earliest
in the area, was disassembled from out south, somewhere along
the Aloe flats, and put up here, significantly prior to either
of us being on the scene!
Whoever decided to move the cabin to this little
It's greener than it used to be. In fact the
alfalfa, in CRP I harrowed not far west of here...
Plus Griff is doing some really innovative stuff
with cover crops, also nearby to this photo.
I highly suspect camelina could thrive around
Kevin. It's an Oil Patch, right?!!!
Well, my wishes last month for rain have been
answered! And then some...
In fact most of our photos from June feature grey skies,
which is ordinarily frowned upon. Except farmers never
complain about rain in Montana!
Snow, we can complain about, but rain... never!
These photos were from a somewhat rare "excursion",
back on 6/14, the last Saturday before Farmers Market season
hits, at least here in Bozeman. Although we've been glad to
do those the last two Saturdays! Good Markets...
This was as usual, at least partly a "business"
trip, though, dropping off camelina meal in Harrison, where
one of our main clients was out again! But also checking out
some old haunts, and the weather man was wrong again. It didn't
This was the bank in Pony, back in the day.
But then we drifted on down to the Jefferson,
and still no rain!
That was good, because there was a free concert
at Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, which amazingly wasn't
These are the Montana
Wild Cats; Phil Aaberg on piano, Kelly Roberti on bass,
and Jack Walrath on trumpet.
World-class jazz just down the road! And it
didn't rain, although as you can see, it wasn't exactly a
heat wave. Except for the music!
So that was almost a "vacation", but
again; clients are out of camelina meal, plus re-stocking
stores with oil, and online interest ... Rainy weather doesn't
seem to hurt the oil market! Not healthy, Omega-3 oils, anyway...
Ones produced with functional antiques, even!
Gotta get a bit more of that done, clean up
a bit of summerfallow, but then it's haying season.
The old-timers around here said you didn't cut
hay before the Fourth of July, and I think they might still
That photo was today, here on the Rockpile.
You can almost see Molly, off to the right. The grass growth
here in the Valley of Flowers is maybe the best I've seen.
We even attempted to take part of yesterday "off",
drove up to Hyalite and then out towards Gateway. It is SO
Come on rain!!
We're supposed to be in for some possibly notable rain today,
but it's only been a couple incher so far. That's what we
call those storms where the raindrops are a couple of inches
But... unless the weather
man is wrong again (impossible!) we might still
get a half inch or so, tonight and tomorrow, and then perhaps
Monday and Tuesday, and after that...!
Actually they are calling for below normal temps and above
normal precip through mid-June.
We don't exactly live in a flood zone (except
for when the snow first melts back in March), and all but
don't even fish anymore, so bring it on! The photo above is
the East Gallatin, back on 5/21, pushing flood status. It's
dropped since, except the main Gallatin river, which drains
the high country south past Big Sky to Yellowstone is definitely
pushing or slightly exceeding flood status. Not to mention
numerous other rivers, as the snowpack is generally quite
good, like ~150 percent of "normal", and it's heading
And, the wind just hit, with rain not far behind!
Yay!! (update: maybe not quite yet...)
We'll take it, as we just finished seeding!
I know, some
people think farming is dull, but it hasn't been dull
around here lately, particularly the last few days.
The functional antiques at work again, just
finished seeding a field to a horse-oriented alfalfa/grass
hay mix, back on 5/24. I thought that was the end of seeding
for this spring, although was having misgivings for some time
I mentioned back in April we'd finished seeding
camelina record early, back on 4/12. That's ordinarily good;
the earlier the better. We had a rain immediately after, but
only a few hundredths, and then, about a week later, a half
inch or so.
It's very strange, on the crappier, rockier
ground (on the Rockpile?) we got a near-perfect stand.
But on the better ground, oddly enough, not that good of stand.
I'm thinking that initial shower might have been enough to
sprout at least some of the camelina, and then it dried out
before the next watering.
So we'd been watching this closely, and very
impatiently waiting for the camelina to kick into gear. It
normally takes a while to get going, but then all but overnight
explodes in growth, canopies and takes over. I won't go on
about the allelopathic effects, natural suppression of other
But... as of this last Tuesday it finally became
apparent that wasn't going to be the case, at least on the
stuff with a poorer stand. So... Praise the Lord
found some organic barley seed right up the road, made it
there and back with the '52 Ford, fired up the antique seed
cleaner and with some of the world's finest functionally antique
farming equipment (best pictured in that photo from back in
April, when we thought we'd set a record!), managed to effectively
plow, clean up the weed situation, and seed organic barley,
in one pass.
And now it's going to rain!
Still, the barley might not ever get as tall
as this Boone & Crockett Record Book lambsquarter plant
in front of our barn! This photo was just yesterday.
I won't let it go to seed, and we should eat
it! In fact, maybe tomorrow...
We've since learned that lambsquarter and pigweed
(and their relative quinoa) are in the top ten for vitamin
and mineral content.
But don't worry, we're not going to plant the
Rockpile to lambsquarter. Although...?!?
Nah, gotta pick it by hand. But then we do have
Farmer's Markets starting again this coming week, and have
considered taking fresh greens... Organically produced on
As months go, gotta say we're fairly pleased
with April. Not least because although we got plenty of April
showers, still managed to finish seeding camelina record early,
back on 4/12!
Just in time, although we barely got a sprinkle
out of that cloud. Got upwards of a half inch a week or so
later, and were shocked to wake up to six inches of extremely
heavy, wet snow last Sunday. That one hadn't made the forecast!
Mother Nature continues to take delight in messing with the
Just prior to that storm, managed to sneak in
some grass, with the other end of the machinery spectrum.
This was just a dab, reseeding some horse pasture
mix into where we replaced/upgraded our septic system and
drainfield, last fall. You can see why we call it the Rockpile
That disc drill dates back to the 40's, yet
another functional antique here at the working museum. In
some ways they never improved the technology, as you can seed
literally anything imaginable, across the extreme spectrum
of seed size. Can't be beat for seeding grass, and we still
are going to seed a smallish field into alfalfa/grass mix
with it one of these days.
Last month I mentioned we'd gotten our camelina
oil into the new Lucky's
Market in Billings. We did another in-store demo over
there, the Saturday before Easter.
We remain very impressed with their operation,
which tons of customers seem to agree with! They're doing
a phenomenal business, and friends in the Billings area say
it's changed the grocery market situation there already. Decent
prices, very good produce and meat departments, a deli and
of course their Natural Living section features a fantastic
Our demo booth was just inside the door, a great
location. We'll be back to do more of those...
They got mention in the Billings
Gazette again recently, in an article about the growing
popularity of specialty meats. Lucky's in-house, naturally
cured and smoked bacon stands out, and reportedly they're
selling over 300 pounds per day of that!
We still have bacon from half a hog we got from
one of the Women
of the Dirt, but when that runs out we'll be getting some
So, spring seems to be off to a much better
start than last year. The grass is off to a good start (as
well as our winter wheat!). In fact even mowed the "lawn",
back on the 21st!
I far prefer those mowers to the mechanical
variety! And they're thrilled also...
And now, noon approaches, which usually means
it's time to get away from the computer, get outside and do
something! Sounds like a person could even get a sunburn the
next couple of days. Unless of course the weather man is wrong
So are we almost through with March Madness?!
It would appear so, although I don't really expect things
to let up into April. We'll be glad for showers and flowers,
although we've actually been getting plenty of the former
This photo was from back in the first days of
March. There wasn't that much snow, but due to a
layer of solid ice beneath it, had to chain up the '52. First
time in maybe four years...
More small-world connections, but we bought
that tractor at Big Sky Equipment in Conrad in a previous
life. But then some time later I met the guy in Cut Bank,
whose Dad bought that tractor new at Torgerson's, and he still
had the chains! Plus he's a bass player, and we jammed, although
clearly weren't going to be the next Beatles, so...
Still, tractor chains make all the difference
in these situations, and I'm very glad we wound up with them.
Other than that, though, we're again pathetically
short of photos for March. Should have taken some when we
went over to Billings, to do in-store demos for our camelina
oil at the new Lucky's
Market there. We're very impressed with that
operation, not just because they prominently featured our
camelina oil. They're doing a superb job on publicity, have
had several feature articles in the Billings
Gazette, and the place has been packed since they first
opened. In fact it's really striking that way; the aisles
are full of customers. They have ~10 checkouts, and people
are commonly backed up 20-30 deep at each one! And, we're
told it's still that way!!
They have very good produce and meat departments,
as well as stressing locally produced, healthy foods as much
as possible. Their prices are good, there's a great deli,
and of course you need to check out their Natural Living section,
where there's a great Omega-3
supplement still on sale!!
So, we're not quite sure if March is going out
like a lamb, although it's almost getting kinda nice out there.
Was white again this morning, although not like the photo
above. It's not quite farming weather yet, but we're glad
for the moisture. In fact it looks like we're going to be
off to a significantly better start than back in '13, but
then those numbers are known to be unlucky, right?
Fortunately fourteens aren't known for that
at all. Plus it's time to get back after pressing camelina
oil. We've been doing that more than normal lately, at least
for this time of year, primarily due to demand for the meal
as an animal supplement. But then it's also going to be fertilizer
season one of these days, and we sold some of the meal for
that at the Winter
Farmers Market this past Saturday. Plus we might have
set a record for oil sales at a Market, but as usual the networking
opportunities, and being part of that community can
far outweigh the dollars...
February is over already?!
It is the shortest month, although didn't seem that
way at times here at BiOmega3. Busy, busy (which can be good!),
and only made it out cross-country skiing twice, just here
on the farm. And frankly, conditions were lousy! But now,
we're getting fresh powder on top of a bulletproof base, and
after we get back up above zero, might have to break out the
skinny skis again.
So we're also short of photos from February. Although...
this one kinda nails it, I'd say.
When you have a rainbow at dawn in February,
that's good! I'll take that as a good sign. Plus we also had
eagles fly very close by, which we've taken as good medicine
for a long time now.
What ate up a lot of time in February was meetings.
We had meetings with a wide variety of government agencies,
covering quite the spectrum, but one common theme is they
all deal with natural resources.
However, one thing you won't find in the Telegraph
is preliminary "gossip" about these meetings. Once
things come to fruition, then that might be different, but
for the moment...
At least a good sign... after one of the more
intense meetings I've been in (and I have extensive experience
with this) the head guy laughed and said "that was fun".
Along those lines, we also managed to get our
camelina oil into Lucky's
Market. Plus they'll also likely be carrying our line
of granolas, and the necessary back label changes on those
are coming together, right at this very moment! Lucky's will
soon be opening a new
store in Billings, MT on 3/11. We'll be doing in-store
demos there the next two weekends.
And then on the same day that fell together,
we also managed to get our oil into the grocery store in Harrison,
MT! Turns out one of our main clients for the camelina meal
as an animal supplement not only farms over there, but runs
the store. Perhaps a different end of the spectrum than Lucky's,
but if you can work with a wide diversity of people and businesses,
that's good, right?
So farming an be fun in February!
2014 is off to a good start, busy and balmy!
Well, the balmy part might be over (for now), but overall
January was quite nice, in comparison to a lot of other places.
So we won't get any sympathy complaining about the weather...
The busy part... well, I don't really expect sympathy on
that either. Living and working here in the Valley of Flowers,
we've long said that complaining is useless.
Plus we even managed to replenish our firewood
supply over the last couple of days. Just in time for winter's
return, so we're thankful for that. Especially when the power
went out for most of an afternoon, a couple of days ago. Luckily
I was away from the computer, and power outages are all but
irrelevant when you're stacking firewood.
We're also able to make good use of yet another
antique, the stock rack from our '52 Ford F5, the red truck
in the background of the above photo. Talk about family heirlooms,
my Dad bought that truck in '53, and I even helped the relatives
haul cattle to the stockyards in Shelby with that truck, not
long after getting my driver's license. There's a couple of
big hills on that route, mainly on either side of the Marias
river. Driving that truck up and down big hills with a load
on will age one prematurely, and I probably did grow up a
little on those days.
But then we continue to make good use of other
functional antiques also!
Back during the balmy days of mid-month we pressed
oil, and we have yet to find a more efficient, or cost-effective
power source than the '67 Massey. This is something we've
investigated to considerable degree, and we're not even burning
camelina oil in it for fuel, although easily could. Again,
it has great properties for biofuel, except the nutritional
benefits far outweigh the fuel aspects, and like a lot of
ancient crops it doesn't yield all that high, so we prefer
selling the oil in little
We'll be doing that at the Bozeman
Winter Farmers Market tomorrow morning, so February will
be starting off busy also. No big surprise...
But again, we're not complaining! Far from it...
The end of another year is upon us, and as
numbers go, I'd have to say thirteen wasn't too bad this time.
All the same, I'm looking forward to 2014!
Even though it's raining here on the Rockpile
at the moment!
Kinda barely, but we're currently under a winter
weather advisory, which means it should be a blizzard.
I'm not complaining... in fact it's our official policy that
we never complain about rain in Montana. Snow, though...!
Well, we can't even complain about that. Except
I haven't even been cross-country skiing yet! Thought about
taking a brief farm tour yesterday, until I looked closer
at the rocks...
Possibly made better use of time by going to
the dump! Best before winter hits again, although didn't see
the herd of elk everyone else is seeing around there...
But then also might have gotten another Holiday
"gift" yesterday, although we're paying for it,
SO much less than alternatives...!!
Besides ancient Fords, we now have a brand-new
professional grade laser printer here on the Rockpile!
I just have to rattle on briefly about this,
as we've been in labeling school for years now! And if you're
bottling oil, not to mention packaging any number of other
things, this magical poly stock is hands down the best deal
Except it's not the "normal" thing,
and numerous printers seem to agree that switching over to
it is kinda like playing the violin, and so...
But today's the end of the year, so we mostly
printed documents and envelopes and such, which is absolutely
laughably cheap (and maybe even sharper print!) with these,
but now it's maybe time for a few more labels. Plus now there's
stuck in my head...
There's also another good thing or two that
have fallen together here toward the end of '13, which similar
to cheap (and superb!) labels we've been investigating for
some time now.
So when thirteen's are lucky, (in spite of farming
"disasters"), must say I'm definitely looking forward
Happy New Year!
There's no doubt it's Thanksgiving around here,
as Cody got an elk this past Sunday.
We're very thankful, not just for a year's supply
of wonderful, nutritious, lean meat...
It's always good to get out and connect with Nature, and this
is one of our favorite spots. In fact we call it Paradise.
Plus we're also thankful for good mountain ponies!
Although we're down to only two useable ones at the moment.
We hope to have that situation remedied by this time next
year. In this case we got by, though. Travelled light, just
a backpack tent, and packed both horses coming and going.
Largely horse feed on the way in, and elk on the way out!
We even did a little farming in November, though.
Plowed a field that had quite a bit of grass survival from
when we last plowed back in September. Not now, though, and
we might actually get camelina in early next spring. Just
a light harrowing, and the camelina/clover mix might be going
in April for a change.
Plus we have a good stand of winter wheat going,
so with any luck we'll be off to a good start next spring!
We also pressed oil in November, mainly due
to demand for the meal as an animal supplement. We're getting
notable interest in that, and speaking of healthy, Omega-3
meals, I think it's dinner time!
At least the only trick or treater we've had yet today was
In fact computer problems threatened getting a Telegraph out
on time, which we've managed to do by month's end since '01!
So you talk about self-imposed deadlines...
Besides taking my computer to the doctor, also took animals
to the veterinarinan. They were having computer problems at
the vet clinic also, so we're thinking it might have something
to do with Halloween.
Either that or it's this constant "upgrade" situation,
perhaps more aptly described as "planned obsolescense"
or "scheduled failures".
At least that's still irrelevant if you're wandering
around up in the mountains.
Thank God!! This photo was yesterday
morning, here in the back yard. Unfortunately no elk around.
No fresh sign anyway, quite a bit of droppings along this
ridgetop from other seasons. We're talking winter range...
Except it's not winter here in the Valley of
That photo is all but the only snow we've gotten
in October. Not to complain!!
Our standard policy is that we never complain
about rain in Montana. Snow, though...
So we can't complain about abundant, just right
rain, and very little snow this month. Unless you're elk hunting!
Farming, though... I think worked out fairly well.
Seeded some winter wheat, into mud, in October.
And then even harrowed some of it, which further
cleaned up the grass. We're talking relatively "recent"
breaking here, which still has quite a bit of grass. If you're
organic, you don't soak it with Roundup, though.
In fact it used to be fairly common to harrow
winter wheat, but not until spring! That was before chemical
"control" became commonplace. Fortunately winter
wheat competes amazingly well (except with fanweed and cheatgrass)
and even back when I was a "kid" ('70's?) I questioned
my Dad why we were spraying our winter wheat. There were all
but no weeds out there, and it was taking off...
But I won't go on about farming stuff! Even
though we might be pressing camelina oil tomorrow. That's
November, though... assuming no zombie invasions tonight!
I'm not too concerned about that, although we
may have run into a ghost or two up in the Bridgers last weekend!
Cody obviously wasn't concerned either, as he's settling in
for a nap in the above photo. This was opening morning, after
we'd determined there likely weren't any elk in there. Or
maybe one, or two, but...
I've since learned we were right. I'm not going
into all the reasons why, but have talked with a fair number
of neighbors and others lately, and there's been some screwy
stuff going on.
But then maybe ghosts will retaliate!!
Tonight could be interesting after all...
This year has been perhaps (if not hands
down) the strangest weather I've seen. Except right now,
it's actually pretty nice out there, sunny and windy! For
a change, that's a good thing. And I spent some time earlier
this month up in Napi's
Country, where the wind howls.
But earlier this morning, here in the Valley of Flowers...
That's right out front here, looking over toward
the Tobacco Roots.
So some people think farming is dull, but that's
not been my experience. In fact the (even partial) days of
farming weather in September could almost be counted on the
fingers of a careless butcher, or maybe even Jon
You'll almost never hear me praise politicians,
in fact the best advice I ever got from one; Brady Wiseman,
the original sponsor of our bison bill years ago said "don't
trust any of us!"
Still, apparently Tester killed the Monsanto
Protection Act, a "rider" attached to a far more
important bill, but that's how it's done, right...? This had
already cleared the House, and if we didn't have an organic
farmer in the Senate... God help us!
Still, I'm kinda surprised this hasn't made
the news, so to speak. Except for Don
Pogreba's blog, and a couple of links from there. Incidentally,
Don's a public school teacher in Helena, but originally from
our old haunts up by Shelby. We never crossed paths up there,
although I was in those parts again this month. And again,
viewpoints vary, but...
This was Bert's Bar in Kevin, back when I was
a kid, until she sold it and as you can see, a while after
that time stopped.
I was doing some maintenance on property of
ours up there, and thought about staying at the old Baker
Place homestead, until I discovered it's claimed these days
by a horned owl!
The weather's been different up there also!
In fact it rained between two and four inches a couple of
days prior to these photos. That's kinda been the "norm"
this summer, though, which is why the grass is green still
(perhaps unprecedented?!) when you get north of Shelby. In
fact neighbors up there are getting hay yields comparable
to here in the Gallatin, which almost makes me shudder!
Not just the cost of new machinery anymore,
but of course with haying, it doesn't matter; something always
breaks! But then the price of hay might have tripled or even
quadrupled since back in the day, except expenses...
Given the weather, I even checked the price
winter wheat recently, and it's a bit over $14 per bushel!
I can't help it, that just makes me laugh...
Not to mention, you can still harvest it with
the World's Finest $1000 Combine, at least here on
the Rockpile Ranch!
In fact doing it with a $300,000+ combine with
a thirty or forty foot header (which alone costs more than
whole combines used to!) in the Rockpile...?
Gads... that makes me shudder too!
Here it is the end of August already, and
most farmers who aren't through harvesting yet would be out
there at it again right now. Particularly given the bizarre
"harvest" weather lately, with humidity levels over
50% (pushing double that!) until after lunch, when it turns
to thunderstorms. I did harvest a day or three recently, successfully
dodging storms, or at least on the edge of them.
Except today! Saturdays as usual start early around here,
a bit after 5:00 AM. We're supposed to be at the Saturday
Farmer's Market by 7:00 AM, but more about the opportunities
For some reason my mind is in different places
this afternoon. The photo above is from a hike I took earlier
this month. Have only managed to do that once per summer,
for three years running now. Tsk...
Back on farming, though, or at least harvesting...
This year has been perhaps the oddest harvest weather I've
ran into. Used to be, in a previous life up on the Hi-Line,
we'd be rolling by about 10:00 AM, and run until near dark.
Good grief, that was then, this is now!!
These days, harvesting organic (wait a minute,
make that naturally produced) camelina, given the bizarre
weed situations this year, we have to run it through our (fortunately
massively higher capacity) seed cleaner more or less right
after cutting. And I know, you aren't supposed to put things
in parentheses more than once per sentence, or maybe even
paragraph, but I had numerous professors come through the
Market this morning, and I don't think they'd argue!
In fact, they're generally quite supportive,
but more about that later...
So we'll get rolling on harvest again tomorrow,
and two or three days later, might be done! And then a bit
of maintenance on our stuff up by Cut Bank, and further renovations
on the former meat plant here, and we'll be back up to code,
Fortunately we've always gotten along well with
inspectors. They're doing their job, and seem to generally
like people who are pushing the envelope. Legally!!! And now
you can read restaurant
inspection reviews online, which is entertaining, so...!
At least the site in the photo above isn't regularly
inspected! Plus there's been meals served there, and subsequent
ones facilitated, for...
When I first came across this spot last fall,
I assumed it was put there by early settlers here in the Valley
of Flowers, but the more I think about it...
It was way before that. Definitely
pre-inspection days. Far before that...
I would never diverge (!) but this has been
on my mind lately. And in some ways, this kind of thing has
held up just fine into the smart phone age. And it will endure
This has been of note here lately, including
a recent public preview of a hunting
video, soon to be distributed far and wide. Briefly, this
was done by a local CPA, Randy Newberg. A very successful
local accountant, but also hunter. He has a potentially life-threatening
condition, and decided to make his time count. I'm not into
videos, and even told Randy years ago that hunting is not
supposed to be a spectator sport. I immediately apologized,
and if there's anyone that's cut out to do... something other
than "horn porn", he's doing it. Way far beyond...
So if you happen to read through that thread
of comments, "Rimrock" is... someone familiar to
me. I've often said, that these days, if you only have two
identities, that are basically identical, it's hardly grounds
So I have a deep connection with people who
likely built that stone cairn, up by...
Well, I think it's kinda up by Amnesia Lake!
It's a great spot. You hike about fifty yards
in any of three directions, and you have a superb view of
the surrounding neighborhood. Not to mention, it's all but
a multi-lane interchange on the wildlife freeway, and you
don't even have to get up at 4:00 AM. Assuming you camp up
there, although again, you're not going to drive there, but
that's how it's been for... how long?
At least back then, Omega3's were common in
the diet. Although you had to work for it, but again...
So at the Market today, amongst numerous conversations,
one of the potentially most interesting was from a Professor
from Ohio State, who is interested in the effect on cancer.
Omega3's have been shown to be critical for everything from
cardiovascular health, joint and brain function, skin tone,
mental conditions (mainly avoiding depression and bipolar
So we'll see. If it proved to have a beneficial
effect on cancer suppression (which wouldn't surprise me even
You talk about Big Game hunting...!
p.s. We meet a lot of interesting people at
the markets, and speaking of "smart phones", the
following video was filmed on one...
July has been an exceedingly strenuous month
here on the Rockpile Ranch. But, at least we just finished
plowing the summer fallow, which continues to make me more
of a believer in the organic model.
It would have been nice to get the plowing done
a week or two earlier, but that wasn't meant to be. Haying
and another tumultous issue or two (dozen!), mainly related
to Kim's mother's health care. Literally every day has been
unpredictable, but what else is new...
Back to weeds, though, as I mentioned last month
the weed issues here in the Valley of Flowers might be the
worst I've ever seen this year. Perhaps mainly due to things
starting out frighteningly dry, but then abundant rain (thank
God!) which also made the weeds thrive.
But at least instead of soaking them (and everything
else) in chemicals, we've been practicing organic weed "control".
Started out with mowing the Canada thistle and wild oat patches
with the hay swather, starting back in late June.
The above photo was just after we'd rebuilt
the skid plate. Those have to be stronger than normal on a
Mowing weeds is not a magic solution, but at
least it prevents them from making seed, which is kind of
a big deal.
And then we went to mowing hay. I've often said
that haying might be the least productive use of time of anything
I do! I didn't grow up haying, and it's still not my thing,
but it's part of the deal here.
At least the horses approve! And, for what it's
worth (maybe $200+ per ton) we have very good quality, organically
produced, weed free hay that we put up without it getting
rained on at all after mowing. That was kind of rare for first
cutting stuff here in the Gallatin, although serious hay guys
(a treatable disorder?) would laugh as some of them are already
on their second cutting. Only on irrigated ground, of course,
but their first cuttings all got rained on, so...
Plus, as you can see we're not running a couple
hundred thousand dollars worth of haying equipment.
In fact that's a Ten Dollar Baler! Not counting
time and parts we've put into it, of course...
But at least it's working fairly well, perhaps
almost like back in '64, when it was new. We got the bugs
out of the knotter last summer, and tweaked a few other minor
issues this year, and might be good to go for a decade or
three yet! At least we don't hay all that much, which again,
can be cured with counseling...
Go ahead and laugh, but the Tightwad Model works
here on the Rockpile.
Yep, we still pick and stack our hay by hand.
Not that we haven't investigated other alternatives... We've
had a couple of the more significant custom haying contractors
in these parts try picking it up with balewagons, but...
We don't call it the Rockpile Ranch for nothing,
and one attempt cured both of them! You basically have to
raise and lower the pickup for each bale, or you're going
to be hitting it on rocks and breaking things, so...
We pick it by hand. Tsk.
But at least we're done with that!! And now
have the weeds cleaned up in our summer fallow acres, and
just finished a field, that uncharacteristically for the Rockpile
doesn't have fanweed or bulbous bluegrass, so might lend itself
to seeding winter wheat. And of course, organic good quality
wheat is going for ~$15/bushel, versus hauling it to the elevator
and seeing how much they discount you from the quoted price,
which is around $6.50/bushel, although based on extensive
past experience that actually means more like $5.00.
Speaking of wheat...
It tells you something about the kind of year
we're having that I had a wheat plant mature, growing in the
back of my pickup! Yep, it's a farmer truck that hasn't been
the the detail place ever, and only rarely even to a car wash!
But if you get enough rain that a wheat plant can head out,
growing in accumulated material under the toolbox, that's
not too bad...
In fact that's our wheat crop this year!! We
have everything else seeded to camelina, and will be harvesting
that one of these days. And then pressing and bottling the
oil, and getting it further into the markets as an outstanding
Omega-3 supplement. And, we don't have to pick it by hand!!
As June winds down, the Gallatin is definitely
living up to its long-standing nom de plume; the
Valley of Flowers. In spite of things starting out
frighteningly dry back in April and May, once the monsoon
season hit back on May 20, we've gotten more rain than I can
keep track of! Well over six inches by now, and got another
.6" last evening. On an organic
farming tour yesterday afternoon it was agreed if we got
one more decent rain, we'd be in good shape. That idea was
even supported by people who've already mowed hay! It's a
standard joke of mine that we need to thank people who lay
down hay early, as it can all but guarantee rain in later
June. Maybe that's partly why the old-timers said to not mow
hay until after the Fourth of July. At least that policy still
is in effect here on the Rockpile Ranch, which all but doesn't
even qualify as "dryland" this year!
Check out the pasture growth in the background
of the photo above. Of course it's mainly of Cody, yet again
push-starting his '76 Honda. That works at times, and he even
got to ride it home from town in a rainstorm a few evenings
Speaking of plant growth, we're thrilled to
finally have some decent photos demonstrating the benefits
meal as a natural fertilizer.
This was back on June 11. We'd spread and incorporated
varying rates of camelina meal fertilizer, running lengthwise
kinda left to right. 5# per 100 sq ft in the nearest third,
10# in the middle third, and none in the back.
Check out the difference in that spinach!
This is looking lengthwise down those rows,
and shows the row of lettuce between the two of spinach. The
nearest third is fairly decent, the middle notably better,
and the far end...
Again, the bottom part of the photo got ten
pounds of camelina meal per 100 sqare feet, and none on the
top half. What a difference!!
Of course it's not just the garden that has
exploded. Basically all the plant growth is thriving. Our
camelina is noticeably behind normal this year. We seeded
into dust, all but unheard of here in the Valley of Flowers,
so it didn't come up until the monsoon hit. That's at least
part of the reason we have possibly some of the worst weed
infestations I've seen! Ordinarily the camelina gets going
early and largely out-competes the competition. There's more
variation than usual in the camelina growth this year, for
some reason... Some of it has already exploded and blossomed,
and the rest is just about there. Thank God for that rain
again last night, could make the difference.
In the meanwhile, we've used an organic
herbicide, BurnOut II on some bindweed patches. All but
never had those before to any degree, which is very strange.
And I need to get back after mowing the Canada thistle patches,
and then possibly treating those spots with camelina meal
and the magic secret solution! And then spot plowing with
the '67 Massey and the ten foot plow that I all but kiss the
ground I don't have to do all the farming with anymore! And
then we'll be mowing and baling hay, with yet more functional
So yet another month has gone by and we haven't
even been fishing, or camping, or... Well, Kim actually did
"camp" in Ronan for a couple of days this week,
as she was taking an advanced food safety class, mainly on
canning, so now she's cleared to get her fantastic mustard
in the markets.
At least Cody's made it out a few times, one
of which resulted in the fantastic dinner below!
Speaking of which, lunch looms, and then it's
off to town to visit Kim's Mom, who's been in Intensive Care
now for a bit over two weeks. She's doing a lot better, plumb
spunky, so hopefully...
And then it'll be July! See you next month...
Just as I'd hoped for last month, it appears
Mother Nature did switch April and May on us! In fact, it's
snowing up in the Bridgers behind us here, and at least was
drizzling down here in the Valley of Flowers.
The chickens don't seem to mind rain either.
In fact they seem to like it as much as we do.
As I'd previously mentioned, April and a significant
portion of May were frighteningly dry. But at least when the
monsoon season hit, things changed dramatically all but overnight.
That photo was back on 5/20, and yes, that's
three inches of rain in the gauge!!
And now we've gotten a bit over another inch
in sundry showers more recently. So the plants are happy also,
and we have a good stand of camelina (interseeded with clover)
growing. Like usual, it takes a bit to get going, but then
all of a sudden it explodes. I'm looking forward to that,
as we have some kind of unusual weed issues also. Mainly a
low creeping plant, that I've never seen to this degree. It's
not buckwheat or bindweed, at least, still just patches here
and there. My horses still have access to a field seeded with
camelina, and they seem to enjoy eating this new salad. Unfortunately
I haven't come up with flocks of organic sheep or goats that
might agree, and it's getting a bit late for that anyway,
as the camelina will be up to edible size any day now, so...
With any luck, the camelina will outcompete
it, and if not we'll plow out those patches. Plus of course
the usual canada thistle patches will either get plowed out,
or mowed, or maybe the new magic secret solution! We'll see...
Last year the camelina all but outcompeted even
thistle, but timing seems a bit different this year. Who ever
heard of such a thing...?
Speaking of weeds, the photo above was a booth
we did at the local Kenyon-Noble Gardening Center expo, perhaps
thankfully back before it started raining! This was mainly
featuring our camelina meal as a natural fertilizer/soil amendment.
There's even a degree of weed and insect suppression going
on there, besides the nutritional benefits and water retention.
Plus of course chickens also thrive on it, so
we're going to continue the animal supplement aspects also.
Naturally, that demand is fairly steady (and expanding dramatically!),
while fertilizer is somewhat seasonal. 'Tis the season, thankfully...
Not to mention Farmer's Market season is almost
upon us again! In fact did the Helena
one last weekend, and we're heading there again in the morning.
That's quite a Market. They close down two blocks, down in
the historic district, and have a solid line of vendors on
both sides of the street. Plus quite good traffic, which we'd
heard to be the norm.
So we might be doing two simultaneous Saturday
Markets, once the Bozeman
one gets going in later June. Son Cody is up for the Helena
one. Plus the Livingston
one fires up this coming Wednesday, so once again, 'tis the
So it's time to go bottle some oil.
A good rainy day project...
April soon vacates, or at least turns into
May. Except it would be nice if it turned out Mother Nature
decided to switch those months on us for a change. She can
have a sense of humor, far beyond what we've seen lately...
I'm not so sure about the showers/flowers timing anymore,
though, so I hope she comes through.
As months go, can't complain about April, though. Except
for tax bookwork! But even that is pointless at this point.
Or maybe not...
Still, it wasn't long after April Fools Day that we turned
the dirt here on the Rockpile.
And incidentally, that's varying rates of camelina
meal fertilizer in the left foreground, about to be "incorporated"!
Plus now we're moving it out in pallets, which can lead to
trucks, trains and then ships and...?
So farming can be fun!
Another good thing is we'll have our camelina
in on time again this year. Usually that's been an issue here
in the Valley of Flowers, although was mildly surprised
to remember we got it in on time last year also, by reading
further down the list here...
So even though it can approach fun,
we far from spent all month on the tractor.
It can be hard to get away from the desk, but
the cats appreciate it when I do. If I could only get them
to deal with the paper piles! Without littering...
But then they're not the only happy animals
Ancient Thistle has made it to green grass again.
He and the other horses were thrilled today! Out on pasture,
somewhat earlier than usual, but we'll rotate them around
a bit, and perhaps even put them on a "hay" field
for a week or so, previously unheard of I'd thought!
Except talking with a rancher friend/associate,
he'd actually done that a time or two in the past also. Except
not a few horses, we're talking quite a few cattle. The feed
situation changes with some regularity also, right?
Still, I'm looking forward to seeding again
tomorrow, and we'll be done a day or two after that, just
in time for the Montana
Farm and Ranch Show this weekend.
So that's manageable. But then have been in
correspondence with a fair number of Hi-Liners lately, where
unlike here in the Bozone it's mostly nice and wet! Mostly
related stuff, although one of our old neighbors had just
finished seeding ~3000 acres of peas, and was looking into
further alternatives. Hauling wheat and barley to the elevator
It's far better to work with Mother
Nature. And if you both get a laugh out of it...!
It's spring! A month early!!
It wasn't quite spring when I took the photo above
back on 3/9, although the grass was just barely starting to
green up, something that will be more than welcome in the
Beartrap Burn. This photo is looking southeast across the
Beartrap Canyon of the Madison River, some wild country that
I used to spend quite a bit of time in. Mostly elk related
ventures, although also plenty of camping and packtrips. I
kinda miss that, so it was nice to at least take a day hike
to within view of the neighborhood.
It's amazing how much country burned in that fire last summer,
way more than is visible from the road. To think it was started
by someone playing with fireworks down along the river...
I had a conversation at the Farmer's Market yesterday with
a young guy who'd spent the prior couple of summers fighting
fire in eastern Montana. Our son Cody also spent a couple
of summers doing that, although thankfully the fire seasons
in Montana weren't too bad in those years, and he was in other
states most of the time. Yesterday neither of us ventured
to predict the fire season in Montana this year, although
we might have both shuddered slightly...
I'm even hesitant to predict about farming,
except for remaining bullish on camelina!
If indeed spring has arrived, that would be record
early for here in the Valley of Flowers. Back in our previous
life farming on the Hi-Line, I used to shoot for being in
the field by April 10, although a lot of years it was more
like the 20th.
Here in the Gallatin we're a thousand feet higher,
so it's been somewhat rare for me to make it into the field
in April at all! But unless the weather man is wrong again
(Impossible!!), I just might be farming this coming
week. That would likely be good, as camelina lends itself
to early seeding, is very frost tolerant, and has generally
produced the best yields when seeded early, the sooner the
better! Plus of course then it's matured by the time the blast
furnace typically hits...
At least we're had the '67 Massey going. No
field work as yet, but besides being yet another functional
antique, we haven't found a more efficient power source for
running our oil press. And this is something we've investigated
to considerable degree...
Plus now we're not only in the oil business,
but also fertilizer! We have our camelina meal, the byproduct
after we cold-press the seed, into most of the local gardening
supply outlets as a natural fertilizer/soil amendment. Besides
a beneficial nutrient blend it helps with moisture retention
and plant availability. Not to mention there's a degree of
weed and insect suppression. Plus we now have it in bigger
bags, visible in the background of the photo above. So if
you're going to be roto-tilling the garden this week, better
grab a bag! It's available at Planet
Natural and Cashman
Nursery, and shortly at both Kenyon-Noble
So even though this is preposterously early
for growing season to arrive, I've heard rumors that there's
been a Dutchman or two out at Churchill in the field already,
which we're about to go investigate. Actually a holiday drive,
touring the back roads over to Ennis and likely even down
to Cameron. Kim and I were discussing this yesterday, and
came to realize we haven't gone anywhere (outside the Bozone)
since our anniversary back in October! Tsk... So at least
today we're also coming back through Harrison, and have an
early dinner reservation at the Willow
Creek Cafe. Gotta have a vacation before farming season
Farming in February is Fun!
It can be, anyway. Of course no field work (thank God!),
but as I've mentioned it kinda feels like planting seeds,
in a way.
We're getting significantly higher interest in our camelina
lately. Surely it's not just that at long last, I finally
got around to search engine optimizing the website,
although that's definitely helped.
Plus we don't spend much on advertising, for better or worse,
richer or poorer, etc. But we did just have an ad come out
4 magazine, and are getting response to that also. It's
going to be an early spring, right, it'll be gardening and
farming season again before long! We're enthused about the
camelina meal as a natural
fertilizer, but we're also getting considerable interest
in it as an animal supplement, particularly chickens. In fact
also came across the most recent research on that, a paper
State of all places!
So school never lets out!
But then couldn't find any papers on taking
apart universal joints on old farm machinery. Plus it turns
out you can't rent a U-joint press in Bozeman. At least Cody
was here then, and we improvised the arrangement above, which
worked like a charm! Ordinarily I don't find mechanical stuff
fun, but once in a while...
Speaking of fun, though, I didn't even make
it skiing once in February! Tsk...
At least Cody made it fishing once.
So fortunately quite often things can be fun
right here on the Rockpile. Cody got this shot of an eagle
sitting on the pole out front back in early February.
We view eagles as Good Medicine, and
are astounded that we've never lost a chicken to one. Once
in a great while to a skunk or two, and we've seen hawks and
eagles take hungarian partridge over on the farm occasionally,
but for some reason they leave our chickens alone. Good thing
they don't know the chickens are getting camelina meal Omega-3
Even ancient Thistle, soaking up the sun prior
to his post-breakfast nap today, has gotten camelina concentrate
as a supplement at times. He's pushing 35 years old, has been
retired for a while, but is still doing remarkably well for
his age. In fact it's hard to see in this photo, but he's
haired over like a polar bear!
He won't be shedding that right away, although
again, I suspect we're in for an early spring. Does that mean
March Madness? Hopefully not, I far prefer Fun!
Here it is the end of January, and we've spent
the day farming!
Well, Kim would argue, baking also for the upcoming Farmers
Market this Saturday...
But while I didn't do any actual field work, it was still
kind of like planting seeds, in a way.
Along with numerous other amazing things, we
have camelina greening up here on the Rockpile! Not to any
scale, just a few spots where we happened to spill some while
cleaning and pressing seed. Or screenings we'd thrown out
for the chickens, or...
The above photo is from today, where the chickens
had excavated some camelina
Unlike some, we hadn't had luck with fall seeding
it, and are theoretically still sworn off that.
Luckily January isn't the month for that either,
as the schedule overflows, or at least fills up even without
There's been some amazing stuff going on, which
reaffirms my opinion that school never lets out. Besides extensive
marketing adventures, now have post-grad research in labeling.
We'd inexplicably ran into issues with our most recent labels
not adhering properly over a range of temperature changes.
Never had a bit of problem with that for years, but all of
But now (just as of today!) we have slightly
more flexible, as well as water and oil resistant, still recyclable
labels. We again extensively researched the options, including
visiting with people who've been at this for a long time,
and remarkably it turns out that purchasing these blank but
pre-cut labels from out in the cloud, and having them locally
printed (with a graphic-specific laser printer) is not only
the best deal going, they look great! And stick even better!!
But perhaps far beyond that, some remarkable
things seem to be falling together, that reinforce my opinion,
also reiterated by one of the folks we're dealing with; "it's
not what you know, but who you know".
To some degree, that's true, so among some other
remarkable contacts lately, yesterday we had Angie DeYoung,
Marketing Director for the Montana
Department of Agriculture out for lunch. Fantastic salad
with camelina oil dressing, local (as from the back yard)
chicken, also local organic potatoes and carrots from our
Farmers Market neighbors, whole-wheat camelina bread and magic
coconut bars for dessert!
But then today had some even more remarkable
developments, connections ranging from Chicago to China, plus
Washington and the list expands exponentially! Reports on
that can't be in the Telegraph just yet, as we even signed
a non-disclosure agreement, and came to instant agreement
on commissions, etc., so I have a feeling this is going somewhere.
So when farming in January isn't dull, I take
that as a good sign!
It is Thanksgiving, right? Feels that way to me,
anyway. Looking back over the year, we're thankful for many
of the things that have happened. That, and December hasn't
been quite as hectic as some past ones. Oh, there's been plenty
going on, but particularly with our marketing campaign it
became obvious that the Holiday season is just not the time
to be hammering people on that. Luckily our local sales have
been surprisingly good, particularly considering there's no
Farmer's Markets in December. There's other issues pending
(which likely resolved, just this morning!) but it was apparent
we'd done all we could, and it was time to step back, take
a deep breath, and...
Take some time off! Relax a little...
The animals agree, and if I'd only had the camera
in hand moments earlier, when black cat Abby, aka Abacus was
rubbing himself on Baxter's head with great affection...
haven't just been sitting by the fire, though, have
actually gotten out and gone cross-country skiing with some
regularity. Conditions for that are off to a much better start
than last year. In fact yesterday I broke out the Alpine Touring
gear for a venture up into our private (actually public) ski
resort, here in the back yard. Reminded me I didn't even use
those skis last winter, as conditions were basically either
bare ground, or near-suicidal avalanche danger.
Yesterday I got kind of a late start, and didn't
make it up too high. Perhaps luckily, and the snowpack is
way better than this time last year, but it's still
a bit skimpy, only a foot or so here in the playground. Clearly
I need to come up with a name for our private resort. Hmmm,
Bridger Backyard...? Nah, can do better than that.
At least what snow there is, is decently
stable, with the usual exceptions. And, descents are almost
frighteningly fast! Particularly on cross-country skis, and
mine are yet more functional antiques, old metal-edged Rossignols
that passed for telemark skis back in the day. They still
kinda do, from my perspective anyway, and I can usually manage
to turn them, unless one must abruptly slow down on a narrow
trail. Say, like when you're zooming through the curves on
the lower (but still quicker) portion of a descent and run
into another hiker and dog. Well, I didn't quite
run into them, but might of if I hadn't biffed it! But then
that's been a semi-regular occurrence it seems. It's kind
of to be expected, for me at least, on rapid skinny-ski descents.
Even yesterday though, on the Alpine Touring gear which is
notably more stable...
They are more stable, in theory at least, particularly
after you've locked your heels down for the descent, but yesterday
on about the third turn suddenly I was kissing the ground,
or at least blowing the snow off my face. I'm not sure if
it's something that comes with being in your fifties, or if
I'm forgetting how, or haven't been skiing enough in recent
At least now I know my AT bindings still release
properly, and made it the rest of the way down without further
mishaps. Very rapidly, I must say...
In fact if I can get this wrapped up, I might
take the brief skinny-ski tour around the farm, or at least
the horse pasture, before doing chores. Sounds like a great
way to send off 2012, not to mention build up appetite for
the fantastic upcoming New Year's Eve dinner; lobster (on
sale, an outrageous bargain) and fondue. Just the family...
So speaking of Thanksgiving, we are! It's been
an interesting year, a recurrent theme I fully expect to continue
into '13 and beyond. In fact I've maintained a prediction
theme for these end-of-the-year columns for some time now,
and looking back (and forward) the theme has been pretty consistent.
Producing healthy food products, emphasizing
supplements, organically produced in a sustainable manner,
working with Nature in a symbiotic relationship with
the ecosystem at large...
What's not to like?!
So we'll be looking forward to the sun rising
Happy New Year!
Surely November can't be over yet!
Not quite, anyway, and we're out the door here shortly, so
this Telegraph will be brief, for now.
Besides, I'll have way more news after the next couple of
days. We're heading out to set up for two events, & will
be talking with quite a few people. Should be fun...
First up is Christmas
in the Country, at the Dry
Creek School north of Belgrade. All sorts of locally grown
and handcrafted products, and luckily a friend, one of the
Women of the Dirt will have our stuff, including
some fantastic lefse
that Kim baked.
Because next we're heading over the hill to Livingston, for
County Christmas Fair. That's usually a quite good event,
although we got in a wreck heading over there two years ago.
We've since sworn off going over Bozeman Pass when it's icy,
and so we'll see if the weather man is wrong again.
At least it doesn't look like the photo above.
That was the only significant snow we got in November, and
it had settled a fair bit already by that point. We got about
a foot, which rapidly melted and soaked in. And now, they're
forecasting mainly rain out of a storm showing up here anytime
now. Rain in December, here in Montana?
But again, the weather man has been consistently
wrong lately, almost without exception, so we'll see.
I don't know if the weather was any more predictable
back when this structure was in use. I doubt it...
I might have to get a photo of the Dry Creek
School, although generally gray skies aren't best for photography.
Farmers don't care, though, in fact we like!
Anyway, sorry for the brevity, and hopefully
I'll get an update posted maybe even yet this month, or not
far into December...
Update: Sounds like Christmas in the
Country is going well, and LaVonne now has a Facebook
page up about it. They sold out of lefse, and she even
got a call last night saying it was "as good as Grandma's!"
Traffic was off a bit in Livingston, compared
to other years anyway, but sales were decent. And the weather
man was wrong! Still no snow on top of Bozeman Pass, not to
speak of anyway. And now we're in for a monsoon later today,
No trick or treaters as yet, although we very seldom, almost
never get those. And if we do, I could probably frighten them
off, as I could pass for a zombie.
Although actually probably not, I just got out of the shower
and even shaved! Have a couple of meetings tomorrow... I am
quite tired, though. We made best use of the gorgeous weather
the last couple of days, and cleaned camelina seed.
So even though our seed handling capacity is
way up, with the new hopper bins, and the "new"
high capacity seed cleaner (patented 1924!) it still resembles
work, wrestling a bunch of heavy stuff around. Except at the
end of the day, you've cleaned so much more seed
than our old 1000#/hr one. All the same, that was still maybe
the best $80 I've ever spent, and we'll still use the small
one at times also. Gotta like these functional antiques...
The chickens certainly do! In fact they're absolutely
thrilled to live at a camelina seed cleaning and oil pressing
facility! Chickens do absorb Omega-3's at higher rates than
Anyway, the above photo was from today, and
the prior one from yesterday. Gotta like temps pushing 70
in late October! At least if you're finishing up some outside
projects. And now we have clean camelina in the bins, ready
for pressing, and our oil pressing operation has been streamlined
a bit also lately. Plus another remarkable discovery or two,
but hey, you gotta do something for entertainment,
That photo was definitely a highlight of October.
Although there was plenty else went on, but Cody getting an
elk right at dawn, opening morning... right here in the back
Go ahead and snort, but while elk hunting can
be exceedingly random, we think that one was meant to be.
And we're very thankful...
Although after that photo was when it turned
strenuous, backpacking it down to within horse range. Cody
even built a small travois to haul the hind quarters, which
was a first for me! What is it with triangles...?
I won't post all the photos, because speaking
of firsts, I'll link to Cody's 2012 album on Facebook,
where there's a bunch of good photos.
Can't pass on this one, though, even though
zombies don't usually view themselves as photogenic, got good
feedback on this one.
That's yours truly, also at dawn opening morning,
although for antelope season back on 10/6. We'd not only lucked
out with sweet permission, but also with two alfalfa-fed bucks
that never knew what hit them. My standard line on antelope
is that they're either great, or inedible. You get one that's
been eating sagebrush, and ran across a county or three, and...
But if you get one like above, I'm not sure
there's better meat to be had!
And, speaking of fantastic meat, we have a handful of buffalo
It's not like the old days, only five. Three 2 1/2 year olds
(two bulls and a heifer) and two four year old cows. For what's
currently a bargain price (!), because the owner and myself
both have trouble getting our minds around the idea of bison
at $3+/lb on the hoof!
So if that's of interest, drop
us a line.
Rainbows have been scarce this summer, until
I thought that was possibly the only rainbow
we've had this summer, but Kim says there was another, a double.
A further rarity of late.
Speaking of such things, it actually rained
briefly here last evening, all but the only place in Montana
where it did! Although they say that might become more common
in a few days...
The above photo was also last evening, before
the clouds got serious. It kinda shows the results of September
around here, some of them at least.
Yep, that's two new hopper bins, and the yet
again functional antique seed cleaner, and so our seed handling
capabilities just went way up. And next time, we're
obviously augering directly out of the bin into the cleaner,
and then into the truck. And then into the oil
First, though... this photo was another first;
augering camelina into a hopper bin here on the Rockpile Ranch!
Of course hopper bins require next to no shoveling,
In this case I kinda don't care, though. Besides
the tangible sense of history at this place, there's a bin
of very good oil content camelina we're buying! Plus there's
a couple more even closer here in the neighborhood, and hmm...
Time to be talking to a few farmers about growing
some for us next year...
It's not only chickens that love camelina! Although
the birds around here are beyond happy lately. Not just the
chickens, but of course magpies, who have more personality
than most, and the assortment of smaller birds, and bigger
ones. Hawks and eagle numbers are up, but amazingly we've
never lost a chicken to one. Once in a great while to a skunk,
fortunately another rarity...
Almost as infrequent as having new hopper bins
around here! Since that was one of the more noteworthy September
projects; a few more photos...
And now, we get to spend the next couple of
days pressing oil, and then the weather's changing, they
So maybe we'll even get out of here and have
some fun! Possibly deliver camelina meal, partially bartered
with Hutterites for chickens, maybe collect an alfalfa-fed
antelope or two, and perhaps even check out some new country,
to us anyway. Except wait, that still almost sounds
like a business trip, partially anyway.
At least I don't think we'll camp at this spot.
It's more or less here in the "back yard", off the
west slope of the Bridgers. Actually took a hike last Sunday.
Only did that once last summer, too... Tsk.
I'd be curious to know how that stove wound
up there. I bet there's a story behind that one...
Speaking of stoves, dinner is just served, and
I think my stories for September might be about used up. Although
there's plenty more, except fatigue precludes, and it's dinner
time! See you in October...
Let's see, am I getting overtime for this?
Maybe, as a bit earlier we sold some of our freshly harvested,
high quality spring wheat all but right off the combine (actually
out of the '52 F5) for half again what they're allegedly paying
at the elevator!
And that's FOB the Rockpile Ranch, with minimal
freight, from the field about a half mile to "headquarters",
again accomplished with the '52!
My Dad bought that truck in '53, I replaced
the engine/tranny a few years back, and it still works! Although
driving it any distance with a load of heavy, again remarkable
quality organically produced spring wheat will age one a bit,
but then I'm turning 55 in a few days, and maybe that truck
is partly to blame!!
No, I'm glad to just drive it close to home,
which will work even better now that at long last, just as
of this morning we have some brand spanking new hopper bottom
grain bins here on the Rockpile, although they still require
assembly. A September project, and then we'll fill them with
camelina, some new and some "old", which will also
free up some old grain bins in the neighborhood. Those were
available everywhere you looked in our old haunts up in Napi's
Country, but are exceedingly scarce here in the Valley
of the Flowers, so we're thrilled to finally have some
(new ones) on site!
Luckily we don't need bins (other than the bulk
food bins we already have, another bargain!) to handle Kim's
baked goods and granola, etc. for the Farmer's Markets. Cherry
pitters are quite an invention, though...
Flathead Pie Cherry Tarts go over well at the
Farmer's Markets, although Kim's definitely going to be getting
overtime if she finishes some for the one
That is really quite a Market. There's been
~4500-5000 people passing through, from 9:00 AM to Noon, with
a few on either side. Plus of course regular vendors are supposed
to be there by 7:00 AM, so Saturdays start early around here.
Not as early as other vendors who drive an hour or more to
get here, though...
Still, that's a pretty impressive percentage
of the local population, going on 10%, to pass through a morning
market! Except actually a noticeable percentage of them tend
to be tourists and travelers, which can occasionally turn
into amazing contacts!
Our Farmer's Market booths tend to be quite
a bit bigger than the one above, although that was just right
under the circumstances. That was at the Bozeman
Community Food Co-op a week ago today, where we received
Grant this month, immensely appreciated.
So yes, this direct marketed model holds so
much more promise, that memories of hauling wheat up
the Rimrocks, into the elevators in Cut Bank with the '52
still make me shudder! I also drove an assortment of bigger
and better trucks up that hill, but I think maybe everyone
should have to drive a 50's Flathead Ford with a heavy load
up a hill like that! You'll never be quite the same...
It teaches patience, and maybe even dealing
with frustration, vital skills with value far beyond farming,
They're also definitely handy if you're farming
with this older stuff, although our combine is an '86, almost
new for the Rockpile!
And now it has a new main drive bearing, which
means it's been pretty much gone through, and might be good
for quite a while yet! Another advantage of not having to
harvest thousands and thousands of acres...
Plus it's still possible to work on combines
of this vintage yourself! At least if you had a great Vo-Ag
teacher in high school.
That was the last of four pulleys, sprockets
and hubs that had to be removed to expose the failed bearing,
which partly due to good engineering didn't start any fires!
That shaft is supported by drives in the four directions,
or nearly so, which remarkably support it, & so though
we were suspicious and keeping an eye on things, even upon
"failure" you could still all but hold your fingers
Not so after hub removal, but Thank God
for gear pullers, acetylene and oxygen! And penetrating oils,
and hammers, and...
So you tell me; was that the better invention,
Common themes can be a good thing, right?
Because July was interesting also!
Believe it or not, that's another functional antique that
had just undergone some sheet metal repairs. Getting it transferred
off the gooseneck trailer, onto its own flatbed (which the
prior owner recovered out of the Gallatin River!) was a little
tricky. Thank God Cody was here then...
So I need to get away from the desk, and finish getting that
thing operational. Particularly as harvest looms, yet another
I'm thinking I'm going to have to adjust the routine around
here, though. Ordinarily I'm at the computer in the mornings,
and then step out the door back into the sixties or maybe
seventies the rest of the day. These days, though, doing physical
work, wrestling heavy stuff around in the later afternoons
around here would be utter insanity and certainly heatstroke
potential. Although driving combine would be tolerable, as
the World's Finest $1000 Combine might not have air
conditioning, but those old swamp coolers aren't too
Amazingly (or not) the camelina is holding up
pretty well in the blast furnace. Of course it's early maturing,
drought tolerant, competes exceptionally well, and...
Not to go on about farming stuff (I would
never do that), but the above photo is a horrendously
depleted field that would barely grow wheat and barley in
prior years. The camelina interseeded with red clover is doing
kinda OK, though, perhaps partly because of ongoing education,
When camelina first appeared on the scene here
in Montana, going on ten years ago now, the "conventional
wisdom" was to seed it at about 3# per acre. Looking
back, those were kinda thin stands, although the plants bushed
out remarkably. The lower stems were finger-sized and all
but indestructible, so if you were building a straw-bale house...
Over the years I'd bumped it up to about 5#
per acre, plus a pound and a half of red clover, mostly seeded
with our old disc drill. Now that we have mounted harrows
on the air seeder, we're back up to 36' in width, versus 10'
with the disc drill. Believe me, that helps retain the sanity
of farmers... Except as you can imagine, those are still very
light seeding rates, versus around a bushel (60#) with wheat.
So when I started out with the air seeder this
spring, I set it for three metering units (versus ~50 with
wheat or barley), and was mildly alarmed to find out I was
getting it on kind of heavy, 8# or so of camelina and clover
mix. Except it turns out that was just the ticket! Even Sustainable
Oils (alas, now defunct) had the best yield results seeding
the camelina at about 6# per acre.
Alas, I cut back to two metering units, and
turned out that wasn't heavy enough. Luckily only on a couple
smaller fields, but... tsk. Live & learn, etc...
At least the camelina is holding up better than
the hay did. Of course the Rockpile isn't exactly hay ground,
but even on the more typical good ground here in the Valley
of the Flowers, hay yields are atrociously low. In fact
at a Farmer's
Market last week, someone Kim was talking with said it
was up to $260/ton, which I believe would set records around
Perhaps luckily I didn't grow up haying, and
it's still not my thing. As a soil rebuilding, and horse feeding
project, OK, but otherwise...
I far prefer camelina (as a rotational crop),
rotating with wheat & barley, and a bit of flax, and...
One noteworthy thing, perhaps the most exciting
news we got in July, was approval from the State of Montana,
registering the camelina meal (the byproduct after we cold-press
the oil) as a natural fertilizer/soil amendment. In fact we
got that news the same day I finished haying in the photo
above, so Friday the 13th's can be good!!
We'll have it in bigger bags also, it's looking
like at Planet
Natural and Cashman
Nursery, as well as hopefully Murdoch's.
Plus believe it or not, we finally have an online
store on the BiOmega3
It's still kind of a rough draft, and if anyone can figure
out why the coding refuses to allow me to add the
Store link in gold on that top navigation bar, I'll send you
some oil! Or buy you a beer, or...
I'd fought with adding conventional "shopping cart"
software some time back. As usual, it's a template, and so
some parts don't fit all that well. Plus of course with that
particular package, after fighting with it for three days
I found out it only allowed in-person pickup. No shipping
Besides, I highly doubt there's any wizards that handle variable
pricing structure, where if you buy one bottle of oil it's
retail, but if you do a combo there's a slight discount, and
if you get up into cases it's wholesale, and if we're talking
I like that model, though, and so once we add a Paypal button,
this might work...
Plus we're also thrilled to have gotten a 4%
grant from the Community
Food Coop. That's almost a "next month" item,
except we set up the entryway display thing after the market
last Saturday, and are looking forward to demoing there last
Friday in August. I'll be done harvesting by then!
And now, it's time to load up for the Bogert
Farmer's Market, and I'm sure glad I didn't leave this
until afterward! Gads...
But starting tomorrow morning, I'm back after working on
the seed cleaner and combine, and it'll be August and harvest
time! Except it's already felt like that for a month now,
but all the same... it probably won't be dull.
How quickly things change!
Last year it stopped raining the first day of summer, 6/21.
This year summer arrived a day late, but hit with a vengeance
on the 22nd. That's when the blast furnace fired up, with
temps pushing 100 and nasty wind. No big surprise; fires
erupted. In fact we could be in for a long and nasty fire
At least here on the west side of the Valley of the Flowers,
it's still fairly green.
That photo is of the north end of the valley,
looking over toward the Horseshoe Hills.
And then last evening we were out scouting crops,
mainly for an upcoming video which we're going to start shooting
here shortly, and lucked out with the following photo.
So now we can say that camelina is Pet Approved!!
Molly certainly likes it, as do I!
Plus Farmer's Market season is here in a big
way. We've been doing three per week, which we're starting
to think is too much! Along with our other ventures, it makes
for an insanely busy schedule...
The above photo was the first summer Market
of the season, in Livingston 6/5, obviously before the heat
This one is the Gallatin Farmer's Market, which
takes place in the ice pavilion at the Fairgrounds. Well,
there are outside booths also, but we gladly moved indoors
after the first season we did it, which is getting to be going
on a long time now. Hmmm, seven years I believe...?
We had that one again this morning, which requires
getting up at 5:00 AM on Saturdays. We know other vendors
who drive over from the Shields, which would require getting
up at least an hour earlier than we do!
And then we've been up later than usual lately.
Had a photographer
out two evenings back, shooting photos for the Community
Food Co-op, where we've been lucky enough to get a 4%
Grant. Of course the best lighting around here is at or
near sunset, which makes for long days!
And now, just this evening, had a videographer
out. We're doing an informational video for BiOmega3,
as well as a Kickstarter
So although I've been farming my entire life,
this evening was the first time I've ever driven tractor "on
camera"! Some ironies there; driving a 70's tractor and
being digitally filmed. Plus the horses happened to be in
that field also, and seemed to enjoy being on camera! In fact
you'd have almost thought it was scripted, but no...
So with that, I believe I'll call it a day,
and even a month. See you in July...
It's raining again in the Gallatin, the Valley
of the Flowers! Well, sprinkling anyway.
Which has been the norm lately, except for this morning,
when I should have taken photos. It was gorgeous, and you
could almost hear things growing!
I joke about that, but in our former farming
life up on the Hi-Line, one similarly gorgeous evening we
went out scouting, including a field of mustard that you could
actually hear growing. The seed pods were filling, a bazillion
Which incredibly enough, is happening with the
above!! I just took that photo this afternoon, alas after
the sky had turned grey. Still...
Unfortunately we don't have hundreds (or thousands?)
of acres of it at that stage. That's actually a "test
plot", maybe even the second generation of one.
I'd seeded that field to camelina in the fall
of 2010. Plant breeders laugh at the idea, and camelina is
not supposed to be a winter crop, but some farmers I know
have had decent luck with late-fall seeded camelina.
I didn't, though. It didn't come through very
well at all, so I re-seeded it, not quite this late last spring.
It didn't do very well, no big surprise. Kinda surprisingly,
it volunteered back in places this spring, and although most
of that field will be summerfallow this year, I left a patch
of the best stuff, which was already blooming when I plowed,
a week or so back. And now, it's forming seed pods already!!
That's kind of incredible, compared to the stuff
we've seeded this spring, more or less on time for a change.
Although... that stuff above is getting ready
to explode. I'm probably too deaf to hear it anymore, but
when camelina gets to that point, in a span of days (or maybe
even hours), it literally explodes in growth. Canopies and
We're discovering more about camelina's weed
competition capabilities all the time. One slightly strange
thing; I did some germination tests this spring, which is
always wise before seeding. You just put some seed into damp
paper towels, put 'em in a baggie, and within a few days,
hopefully most of them sprout. And if you're in a hurry, you
can even add a bit of hydrogen peroxide, which remarkably
hastens the process.
So I did a couple samples of camelina, and one
of barley. Put them all in the same bag. The camelina completely
stopped the barley from germinating. It swelled
up, but no sprouts.
So I did a separate one with just barley, and
viola...! It germinated just fine.
So we should be able to get grant money for
this sort of thing! And kind of have, although not for that...
Besides a bit of golden flax, we also planted
wheat, which is what I was hauling with the '52 in the photo
above. Another neighbor, who we're buying a bin of very good
oil content camelina from, was just pulling out with a near
one-of-a-kind load of organic beardless winter wheat, raised
by oilpress partner Brian, at right. At least their trucks
are newer than mine!
Luckily we finished seeding, and plowing summerfallow
before the monsoon season hit. In fact the weather has been
all but perfect, except for photography!
I just dumped 1.75" out of the rain gauge,
plus we've had another up there in the inch range, and several
quarter to half, in fact we're right up there with anywhere
in the state! So are we going to set any records here on the
Rockpile this year?!
We'll see. At least the wheat is seeded into
stuff where we plowed down a good stand of clover last year,
a significant nitrogen boost which the Rockpile all but hasn't
Except in the photo above, we're experimenting
with using camelina meal as a natural fertilizer. My air seeder
won't feed it, as it tends to bridge up. A few folks have
experimented with spreading it with various types of spreaders.
Again, there appears to be some weed suppression going on,
Fortunately, 40's disc drills feed it just fine.
Not that I'm going back to doing that on any scale, in fact
the very idea makes me shudder... Still, in some ways they
never improved the technology. And those tractors didn't even
have auto-steer, although in its day ('67) that tractor was
actually kind of high-tech. It's been in the neighborhood
here since it was new, my now ex-neighbor overhauled it a
few years back, & knock wood...
Fortunately it'll be a few weeks before I'm
driving it again, haying, so in the meanwhile we can keep
after our marketing campaign . At least that's partly digital!
Plus Farmers Market season will be back shortly. I far prefer
the direct-marketed model, which in some ways is what the
Just think if they'd had e-commerce capabilities!!
Which I fought with all last weekend, but no
sense going there now. Except never try to do that with 1&1,
which I now call 4&20.
But we expect that to fall together in June
also, and can't really complain about May, and it's still
sprinkling. Hmm, is there an option where you can "like"
a month on Facebook?
April has certainly been an interesting month.
As I often mention, farming just isn't dull at all anymore,
at least in our case. It's been a bit of a marathon lately
though, and at the moment I am suffering fatigue, so please
Last week was a sprint; getting our air seeder set up for
Maybe it's just because I'm pushing 55, but wrestling a bunch
of heavy stuff around kicked my ass. And then we seeded inbetween
storms, some quite brief opportunities. But of course we never
complain about rain in Montana! And then we had a 3-day booth
at the new Montana
Farm and Ranch Show here in Bozeman this past Friday-Sunday,
as well as the last Winter
Farmers' Market of the season Saturday morning. We've
pulled off having a booth at two events simultaneously a few
times previously, but it's definitely a project.
We're glad we did, though. Besides good turnout and sales,
we made some more small-world contacts that will likely prove
Backing up, though, early in the month we made a run up to
our old Hi-Line haunts, picking up a seed cleaner among other
A relative had tore down the old Cargill elevator
in Conrad, and so we now have a drastically higher-capacity
seed cleaner. It needs a little work, but once that's completed
we'll be spending a lot less time cleaning seed.
Plus I've been looking for a set of mounted
harrows for quite a while. Those used to be common, back before
most everyone went no-till. In fact after most everyone started
spraying instead of plowing, I could have bought all kinds
of them for next to nothing at auctions. I'd decided some
time back they'd still be just the ticket for organic farming
here on the Rockpile Ranch, though, and then... couldn't find
any. Not cheap, anyway. I ran an ad in the Billings Gazette
a couple winters back, and only got one call, from a guy who
wanted $4800 for a set. At the auctions I mentioned, I could
have bought all kinds of them for a couple hundred bucks,
which fits vastly better with the tightwad model.
So, I had some prospects tentatively lined up
with former neighbors up in Napi's Country, except after sorting
through some amazing collections, it turned out theirs were
pretty much junk. I toured a couple implement dealer lots,
but again, these things are pretty much "obsolete",
except in our case. So among a few other prospects, the next
morning I gave Huggy Bear Hughes a call. He's a former implement
dealer in Cut Bank, who instead of retiring still runs a fairly
substantial farm equipment consignment/appraisal business.
No big surprise, he'd just had some harrows listed the day
before, which almost couldn't have been handier, at the Benjamin
place just five miles east of Shelby, where I'd spent the
More than that, it turns out they're fellow
organics! We also made some good connections with that crowd
at the Farm and Ranch Show this past weekend.
So I know, the above photo isn't that great,
but at least you can see what mounted harrows look like. Those
spring teeth are just the ticket here on the Rockpile, as
they flex around the rocks just fine, and also work superbly
for a light harrowing to incorporate camelina and clover seed.
Plus they help to prepare a good seedbed and
get a better weed kill when pre-plant plowing. Of course,
most farmers don't do that anymore. They spray, and then no-till
seed. I did that myself quite a bit back in the day, in fact
before it got popular. As I've
mentioned, I'm over that now, in fact we've been chemical-free
here on the Rockpile for going on eight years now.
The above photo was when we started pre-plant
plowing on April 9. As usual, I was struck with the contrast
across the fence, where cost is no object. They spent a pile
of money that day, topdressing winter wheat with petroleum-based
fertilizer, spraying and seeding spring crops with more fertilizer
I got a newsletter a while back predicting that
wheat prices this year won't be quite break-even for conventional
(make that industrial) agriculture. I just don't miss writing
those big checks for chemicals and fertilizer at all!! In
fact I'm getting to be more of a fan of interseeding clover
all the time. With our camelina, we interseed about a pound
and a half of red clover per acre. That costs a little over
two bucks per acre!! Versus chemicals and fertilizer that
I don't even know anymore. Somewhere up in the
$75/acre range. Ag expenses have gone through the ceiling,
not to mention machinery costs ($300,000 for a sprayer!!?).
So no, I'm more enthused with this organic model all the time,
and guess what? When you meet fellow organics, there is a
connection on far more than a superficial level. There's an
exchange of information, but far beyond that, there's an instant
sense of "community". We've long commented how the
Farmers' Market crowd is a vibrant community that we're proud
to be part of. The enthusiasm for this only continues to grow,
and with farmers who've made the transition, I'd say there's
a fairly deep connection.
So even though it's approaching bedtime, and
my earlier primary sensation was fatigue, I'm even enthused
again. So we'll get the rest of the crop squeaked in between
storms, keep up our marketing campaign, and even have fun!
Nope, farming's just not dull at all anymore...
Here it is the end of March already, and I
swear, it almost feels like June out there! Well into May,
anyway, as it's pushing 70 here going on 6:00 PM.
So, I should be out there plowing! And have given that serious
consideration, at least until a day or so ago when I went
out there with a shovel and ascertained it's still mud around
here. Or at least was, but now...
Except it's going to rain
tonight, so plowing right now would be stupid, even if
it would set a personal record for "early" springs.
But no, instead we had a Farmer's Market today.
It started off kinda slow, as you can see above,
but picked up nicely toward the end. That's when my wife Kim,
at right in our booth above won't let me leave for photography,
and I don't blame her.
That next photo is from the other end of the
Ballroom, home of the Bozeman
Winter Farmers Market, possibly the most challenging photography
spot known!! So I can't help but mention those two photos
above don't even utilize auxiliary flash, and although some
long-time, faithful repeat customers are blurred (if they
were moving), these digital cameras might be OK after all.
Speaking of early springs, though, it's certainly
acting like one out there. Plus of course, camelina
lends itself to early seeding, is very cold tolerant (assuming
we're not quite done with that yet), matures early
So that's mainly what I'm leaning toward seeding this spring,
the sooner the better. Oh, we'll seed a little wheat and barley
also, and probably some mustard and of course we're interseeding
red clover with most everything, although also using camelina
meal as a natural fertilizer with some of it, and it should
So at least we have the tractor
fired up, and are making a run to the Hi-Line next week, picking
up organic clover seed, a decent-sized seed cleaner we'd stumbled
into via the usual small-world connections, plus some machinery
items we've been looking for, for years, recently discovered
under the same circumstances, part of some amazing collections
in our old haunts, so that should also be fun!
So although as usual, we didn't lack for things to do in
March, at least it wasn't utter madness, unlike some years.
Our oil pressing upgrades are coming together, we're going
to get our crops seeded perhaps record early (knock wood...!),
and it's going to keep raining regularly, right?
So with that, I believe I'll call March a month, and let
spring fever fully kick into gear!
Leap years are a good thing, there's little
doubt around here. We could certainly stand the extra day
this February, not least because writing a Telegraph didn't
dawn on me until this morning. If February had ended yesterday,
I assume this would have occurred to me in time, but I'd have
missed a meeting.
As I am right now, or will be shortly. No question, not least
because we just had what almost passed for a blizzard, or
at least a snowstorm around here, a rarity of late.
In fact even the above photo isn't exactly representative,
as the snow has all but been gone most of the time.
At least until a few minutes ago, when a cold
front passed through! Late afternoon, there were wild cloud
formations surging around the Bridgers, from multiple directions!
I should have taken pictures, although video could have been
noteworthy. Maybe not like tornados,
And then the snow hit, temps dropped, and we
stoked the fire.
Except now, chores and a brief bit of writing later, not
even sunset yet, all that is over, it seems! Good grief, the
sun's not out, but...
This really is the "Valley of the Flowers".
In fact in recent days a fella could have almost seeded camelina,
at least if you weren't averse to giving things a shot of
We're organic, though, so need to plow first, and luckily
that's still out of the question! I kinda suspect we could
have an early spring, though, vastly different from last year.
So, in a year like this (might
be), I'd think an early seeded, tough and tolerant low
input quick maturing crop might not be a bad idea. Especially
if you press the seed into a healthy, moreso all the time
we're learning, Omega-3
Good grief, you'd think I have spring fever or something,
except I haven't even been skiing yet!! And am beginning to
wonder... My private ski resort, here in the backyard... seems
to be one extreme or the other; bare ground or near-suicidal
So we tend to just stay home and work, barring the odd meeting.
And thankfully besides computers and such, actually got somewhere
with an ongoing project or two.
Our oil pressing operation has always been kinda semi-portable,
running it off various tractor PTO's. Finally we're moving
it "indoors", though, and after great deliberation,
running it off a biofuel power source.
So that will be interesting, and maybe even
fun! Plus our packaging and sundry other issues seem to have
sorted, so we're back on marketing track, and...
But as mentioned, if we're not at the computer
or on the phone, working or (as of late) welding, eating or
sleeping, we seem to be at meetings! At least the one I'm
missing right now is about motorized use on the Gallatin National
Forest, in this case the Gallatin crest, some familiar country
I used to frequent, on foot or horseback.
So this is better, as I try to stick to non-controversial
things like buffalo!!
One very interesting meeting we had on that
topic this past Friday was when the Interagency
Bison Management "Plan" partners responded to
Working Group answers to their 34 questions about our
recommendations, arrived at through a year-long series of
(usually all-day) meetings of an extremely diverse working
group, open to anyone who would commit to participating.
We'd presented these recommendations back in
December (scroll down, and I will get around to archiving
prior months one of these days...). As mentioned, the partners
responded with a lengthy list of questions, which at yet another
meeting, earlier in the month, we met and came up with answers
That was another all-day meeting, in fact early
on we established we only had something like twelve minutes
per question if we were going to get them all answered. We
ran up toward twenty minutes or more on some of the more contentious
issues, like whether we should go with large-scale wildlife
vaccination and immunocontraception campaigns (except skunks!!),
or concentrate on the risk factors we actually have some "control"
But we got 'er done, although didn't reach total
consensus on a few items. Still, for as mentioned, an extremely
diverse group, including representatives from the Montana
Stockgrowers, we didn't do too bad.
Luckily at the meeting Friday, the Chronicle
reporter left before things went kinda haywire, so her
report was very positive. And now there's some new
developments, although they don't go nearly as
far as the Citizen Working Group recommendations, possibly
because this goes before a judge in Livingston tomorrow, but
if you don't watch TV you have to do something for
Gotta admit, this one almost snuck on up me!
Oh, I knew it was the end of the month, but somehow the Telegraph
hadn't made it onto the list. But now it's still only 3:00
or slightly thereafter, and next up is perhaps an extremely
So this Telegraph is going to be shorter than normal! Not
least because we have next to no photos, tsk!
Luckily, most if not all of the issues I mentioned
last month have more or less sorted out. Or at least still
might, yet today, and if not, I'd think not long into February...
This "bottle denting" issue we inexplicably
ran into, when shipping down to where the pressure is higher,
in more ways than one (hah!), we find works in the
opposite direction also. In fact back before someone came
up with this obvious solution, we're told even potato chip
bags first exploded when sent across the divide! hahahahaha...
But now we also recently learned this common
compound that makes up ~80% of the air you breathe (unless
of course you're once again at high elevation, and then who
knows...?), when compressed into bottles comes at way
higher pressure than we've encountered before, but what
else is new?!
Luckily someone invented pressure regulators,
which fortunately still work in many cases, and we'll find
out again here shortly. At least we're incredibly grateful,
and still slightly amazed at near-invaluable advice we've
received, and yes, it remains a small world in many ways.
That's commonly encountered at the Farmers Markets,
and we're glad the Winter
one is going again, even if the Emerson ballroom is one
of the more challenging photography spots I've ran into, and
the few times the media have shown up, they tend to bring
auxilary studio lighting. That would be overkill in our case,
But, speaking of markets, the camelina
oil market has been decent today, in fact I need to get
to bottling! Except this next session promises to be more
interesting than usual, although we're told the pressure equalizes
rapidly, so I don't think you'll hear any loud bangs out this
So I know, I should be filming it & putting
it on YouTube,
where you can "broadcast yourself". Especially if
we got loud bangs and explosions, we could get great ratings!
All the same, I'm also told that doesn't happen, so need to
go find out...
Good Grief, 2011 is over already?!
Well, we still have another fifteen minutes or so of sunshine.
It still looks more like possibly October out there, and until
last night we didn't even have any snow to speak of. But then
We recall it raining once before during the Holidays, that
time on New Year's Eve back in about '80 or thereabouts. Similar
mild year, we were having a back-yard barbecue party, which
got crowded once it moved indoors.
At least last night the rain finally turned white. Only a
dusting down here, but at least Bridger
Bowl finally got almost a foot, nearly doubling their
Here on the west slope of the Bridgers, there hasn't been
nearly enough snow to even consider going cross-country skiing,
somewhat to my dismay. In fact we went for a hike Christmas
We've also been horseback riding a few times.
No expeditions, just here on the farm. In fact Cody came home
with a new horse a few evenings back. We've kinda been looking,
& he came across this not-quite-four year old Andalusion/Paint
cross mare. Andalusions
are interesting, they were the preferred "war horse"
for European royalty back in the day, at least until the armor
got really heavy and they went to draft horses.
Fortunately this one was owned by a horseshoer,
so is completely used to that, and has also seen quite a bit
of mountain use for her age, including packing deer and elk.
Completely calm, steps out nice and smooth...
The above photo was right before I took her
for our first ride yesterday. She wasn't too crazy about leaving
her newfound pals, although mostly cooperated. She far prefers
them to the prior arrangement, where a more dominant mare
was bullying her, resulting in a near-starvation diet.
That's not the case here, in fact the boys are
utterly smitten, and will even share their camelina concentrate/winter
wheat dessert with her, previously unheard of. We're still
amazed at the amount of height, and size in general Buddy
put on after he arrived here at age five, and kinda expect
the same thing again.
For these end-of-the-year columns, I've stuck
with the Prediction
Theme, versus reviews and Best & Worst of lists for
quite a while now.
This year, we could have quite a striking list
though, which is tempting. Still, complaining is near-useless
at this point, and I far prefer to end things on a positive
note. Just briefly, though, I have to touch on a few things
that went on in December, if for no other reason than that's
what I mainly have new photos of!
We're largely out of the buffalo business, although
have a neighbor
with a few, & skinned one a while back, causing flashbacks.
As you can see Molly is absolutely thrilled!
So are the chickens...
I used to joke that skinning buffalo paid better
than anything else I'd done except for farming in the '70's,
although it wasn't really a joke.
So now we're working at getting BiOmega3
to that point, which certainly wasn't dull in December!
We're developing labels for a line of new products,
when ongoing trademark issues resurrected themselves. Luckily
it looks like they'll sort out, but not before we found there's
no trademark lawyers in Montana up for this, and even good
referrals in Vegas deferred to more qualified associates,
but luckily free (and accurate) advice was eventually forthcoming,
from Arkansas of all places! Well, there's still another option
or two in the works also, so as usual, we'll see. At least
now we know all the "competition" have had their
But then of course like a lot of things anymore,
our oil bottles come from China. And, they've gotten noticeably
thinner, just in the last year or so. In profound ironies,
now we're shipping some oil to China, and apparently the pressure
differences between here and sea level cause the bottles to
contract slightly, or dent. Obviously, this isn't limited
to just China! We thought bottling the oil at cold temperatures
might take care of it, but no. Somewhere there still have
to be decent food-grade recyclable bottles that aren't a fraction
of their former thickness, and so if you know about that,
let us know...
Plus we ran into an apparent global shortage
of induction foil seals, which we use on the aforementioned
bottles. Strangely, mainly just in that size, so someone in
China must have misplaced the die or something! Luckily that
sorted out also, but not before we just almost ran
out of seals.
So school has been in full session. No Christmas
Breaks around here...
But again, I need to catch myself... I well
know by now, and completely understand that complaining around
here remains almost useless!
So, getting back to this prediction theme...
Some are saying that 2012
will be a landmark year, maybe even the end of time. I
far prefer local writer Alan Kesselheim's take in the article
linked above. The ancient Mayan civilization had some pretty
amazing calendars, and they were quite sure 2012 would be
the end of one era, and the beginning of another. Of course,
no one knows the day or the hour of such things, but I kinda
think they may be right. There's some changes coming down
the pike... Maybe some big ones.
Perhaps growing up farming in "Next
Year Country", up in northern Montana, somewhat
surrounded by pessimists instilled this eternal optimism,
but I'll take our chances. The healthy, "locally produced"
food model continues to take hold in a big way, and who knows...
If the Mayans are right, that could turn real
important. Even if not, I'm still optimistic for 2012.
It always beats alternatives...
Happy New Year!
See update below...
Holy cow! We're a full day ahead of schedule
Although I tend to leave things until the last moment, it's
not just because I seem to work best "under pressure".
The schedule overflows with some regularity, but along with
numerous other deadlines (there has to be a better word...)
I've managed to get out a Moccasin Telegraph by month's end
for a long time now. A wholly different model than constant
tweeting, I know, but still...
I can't leave this one till the last minute (in case we don't
make it back over the pass!), even though tomorrow promises
to possibly be the most fun and certainly interesting day
all month! The Citizen
Working Group is presenting our suggestions to be Interagency
Bison Management Plan partners, at one of their two annual
meetings at Chico Hot Springs.
So although I'd sworn off going over Bozeman Pass in snowstorms,
I'm not missing that one! We got in a wreck a couple of years
ago, heading over to participate in the Park County Christmas
Fair, which ahem..., we're doing again this weekend,
although luckily the weather
man says it'll be better by then. Plus he's been consistently
wrong lately, so we'll see about tomorrow...
At least the accomodations at Chico
are way nicer than the cabin in the photo above!
It's at an old homestead, here in the Valley
of the Flowers, where there's a bin of camelina
At least the view out that window is hard to
beat, and frankly, hasn't changed that much.
Beyond that, the accomodations at Chico are
a bit nicer, although gotta admit, I find these old places
We're not even taking swimsuits, let alone staying
there this time. One of the things I didn't mention last month
was that Kim and I spent our 27th out of 29 anniversaries
there, so you could say it's a favorite, and so I guess if
you have to spend tax dollars on accomodations, twice per
year, you could do worse!
In fact I'm really looking forward to tomorrow.
Incredibly enough, it's mainly the members of this working
group representing the Montana
Stockgrowers who are presenting our suggestions to the
IBMP partners. We all agreed that would likely have the most
significant impact, and so conscripted them to this task,
and I tell ya...
We're presenting common-sense, win/win suggestions,
same as we've done for quite a while now. Arrived at by an
incredibly diverse citizen working group, open to anyone who
would commit to participating, through a slightly extended
series of meetings, that frankly I wouldn't have missed for
Praise the Lord, the weather man was
wrong yet again!! It didn't even snow going over Bozeman Pass
coming or going. Except coming home, just as we hit the bottom
of the pass, where one inevitably gets caught in clusters
of semi's, it finally started snowing. Minimally, really...
But at Chico, well... you'd have thought a rainbow
ended there today, and I even saw a bit of blue sky (and even
got cell reception!) while outside briefly.
It might have been the best meeting I've been
at, or at least certainly in the top handful! So watch the
news, at least the local NBC
outlet was there.