Category Archives: FAMILY

Grandpa Falconer

We all have people in our past who have helped us through the tough times and often we don’t recognise the impact they had until we are much older and those wiser ones are long past from our lives – perhaps even have died.  I didn’t know it at the time, but reflecting on the years i had with my grandpa – i realize now – he was my hero.

Sure, he wasn’t talkative or a hugger, but showed by example, a work ethic of getting up early (and making me get up early by pulling my toes to wake up), he would already have some chores done before i dragged my laziness out and ready to go do the chores that were away from the house.  The importance of finishing a job which included putting things away and cleaning up.  But, i LOVED going with him.  He’d let me drive the truck while he threw out small round bales to the cows to feed in the winter, taught me how to drive the old Farmall 460 and clip pastures with a 9 foot sickle bar mower AND how to change out a broken section.  And even when i drove (i think i was about 10) the pickup into a deep wash out along a ditch (he was on foot looking for a calf), he was more concerned whether or not i was hurt rather than upset about any damage to the pickup or that we had to walk a mile to get the aforesaid 460 to pull it out.   Additionally, he taught me how to ride and have a love for horses.  That was my passion for years.

Back from chores, every morning we stopped in at Tolly’s Garage on the western edge of Purdin, MO which had a population of 236 at the time – less now.  He would reach in for a Coca-Cola and I’d select my favorite – Chocolate Soldier.  Then i could just sit and act like i was one of the guys in the office area.  I was part of a small and important community even at age 8.

Today, my grandpa would have been 100, but he died August 9, 2008 and i continue to miss him though he corrected me a lot about how to raise cattle.  I’m still learning and still need correcting, but thankfully, i don’t make the mistakes he chided me about.

How many people get to farm or ranch the very land and legacy that his or her grandparent’s built?  Not many, but i do own and directly manage at least a portion of their legacy and i could not be more honored to carry on a tradition of land and livestock management.  I call this farm Tannachton Farm to reflect our Scottish roots and the commitment to regenerative and sustainable stewardship.

Heritage, Legacy, Tradition, Family  – cling to what is good

Cheers!

tauna

Grandpa Virgil Lee Falconer with Stanley and Stephen
Grandpa with his two sons, Stanley (my dad) and Stephen.  circa 1943

Virgil Lee Falconer tractor grinder

Grandpa Virgil Lee Falconer and tauna
Me on Danny and Grandpa on Gypsy
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Grandpa with my three yayhoos, Jessica, Nathan, Dallas
Grandpa Virgil Lee Falconer
Grandpa always drove Chevrolet pickups, so do i!  Thanks to cousin, Heather for this great photo.

 

 

 

The Lunatic Farmer -Joel Salatin

Joel Salatin, a self proclaimed lunatic farmer, is one of many real farmers i enjoy reading.  Nearly all of his blog entries, books, speeches, Ted Talks, and all around rantings are nuggets of truth and being politically incorrect (thank goodness!) he proclaims them for all to hear, digest, and test.

Another insightful writer (and personal friend) is the bloke he mentions here, David Schafer.  

INSPECTION FARCE is one of his most recent blogs that will be interesting to most consumers.

INSPECTION FARCE

            Anyone who thinks meat and poultry inspection actually makes safe food hasn’t been in a processing facility to see what goes on.  Yesterday I toured two of David Schafer’s Plant-in-A-Boxes (PIB) with him here in Vermont and Massachusetts.  Founder of Featherman Plucker and quintessential idea man and entrepreneur in the small-scale poultry processing space, he’s one of my greatest sources of inspiration.  When we get together, it’s heavenly.  I’m flying back home today.

             This is a trip I’ve wanted to take for some time because at Polyface we’re starting to bump our non-inspected poultry exemption that allows us to do 20,000 birds per year.  The reason we’ve gone this route is because it removes us from the hassle of inspection.  Inspection means a government agent tells you when you can start, when you can stop, what is blemished and what is not.  It requires substantial paperwork and calibration.  But more than that, it doesn’t improve anything and puts you under bureaucratic supervision rather than your own personal brand integrity.

             Before anyone retorts “well, not everyone is as honest as you,” let me tell you, the system can be gamed a million different ways.  Dishonest people find ways to express dishonesty no matter what you do.  For example, to make sure you have a negative E.coli test, you can just dip the sample birds in pure chlorine.  If you think “getting by” with a traffic violation is fairly easy, you ain’t seen nothin’ in a processing plant.

             David and I have come away from this quick tour of two of his facilities with more questions than answers.  Both of us are pretty savvy about regulations and both of us travel extensively and listen to the stories of other small operators around the country.  What’s obvious is that the stories don’t jive.  Clearly, different inspectors have different interpretations of the regulations.

             Same set of rules, but completely different interpretation.  This means procedures that work in one area with one inspector do not work in another area.  The tragedy is that nobody, I mean nobody, is there to hold the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) accountable.  If they write you up with a non-compliance infraction, you dare not complain because if you do, they retaliate.  It’s the worst case of emotional extortion you can imagine, and it’s ongoing across the country.

             Yesterday we met a new inspector in training and she said the line speeds at the big processors are 1.3 seconds per bird.  Yesterday, in these little facilities, inspectors had 10 seconds or more to examine each bird.  And yes, I watched them miss a lot–fecal contamination on the carcass, etc. Who spotted it and took care of it?  The well-trained employees down the line, that’s who.  Their brand reputation was on the line.

             The amount of anti-microbials used in the industry is nothing short of epic.  The clear prejudice of the FSIS against small plants creates nightmares for small operators.  The testing in a small plant is the same as in a big one, meaning that the percentage of birds sampled is exponentially higher in small facilities.  It’s a prejudicial and unfair playing field that protects the biggest players.

             I’ve said it before but it bears repeating.  When I testified before the U.S. Congress hearings into the meat industry a decade ago, convened by then Congressman Dennis Kucinich, I couldn’t believe my ears at what the head of the FSIS said.  He actually touted the progress the FSIS had made in efficiency, measured in pounds of product per inspector hour, due to the fact that so many small facilities had gone out of business.  I didn’t know they were inspecting for pounds per hour; I thought it was about food safety.  But his testimony let the cat out of the bag, The real goal of the FSIS is to increase through-put per inspector.  If that doesn’t make the FSIS a farce for food safety, I don’t know what does.

             Have you ever fallen for the duplicitous idea that we need more “government oversight” to insure food safety?

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Clay Masks

As soon as my little jar of clay mask is empty, I make a new batch.  There is a bit of planning on this because, being a bit on the weird side, i like to use only rain water to mix in with the clay harvested from the earth.

The clay in this mix is from the North Central Plains (or Visitors maps calls Panhandle Plains) area of Texas, near Olney.  To be precise, in the rocky paddock in front of the home of my rancher friends who live there.  Early this spring, i made a road trip to go visit and amongst many activities, their children and i collected a couple gallons of good ‘ole Texas clay.  (Our Missouri clay works great as well – it’s just red)

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Yup, that grayish/greenish rocky looking stuff is the clay we harvested and bagged and i brought home with me.

 

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Nice – a bit over an inch of rainfall in the gauge!
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Pour that liquid gold into a super clean glass spice jar.  Chooks in the background not paying a bit of attention to me.
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I only make about 1/2 cup at a time because without preservatives, it can get kind of rank smelling if it sits for more than a couple weeks.  I use a plastic screw type lid rather than metal because the metal one, i’ve found will rust and be hard to open.  Check out those two huge bags of dry clay harvested!  Probably last the rest of my life.
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Drop in some clumps of dried clay.
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Add the water.  Can’t give you an exact recipe – clay is going to be different and you’ll need to add more or less water for your batch.
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After i add the water, i screw on the lid and give it a swirl, then let nature take its course and use the erosive capabilities of water break down the clay clumps into softened lumps.  Much easier then to stir and smash any bits that didn’t completely break down.
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Add more or less water as necessary for desired consistence.  
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Smooth the clay mixture over your face and allow to dry – doesn’t take more than a few minutes.  Please excuse my blood shot eyes – haven’t been imbibing this early, just been out shifting my cows and ragweed season is in full assault mode. 😦
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All dry and ready to remove with a warm wet washcloth.  Keep the spa feeling going by relaxing in your favourite chair with a warm wet towel draped over your face.  Will make removing the clay easier, but more importantly, provide at least a moment to relax.  Or jump in the shower to rinse!

Let Them Eat Weeds!

Kathy Voth, Fred Provenza, and others have long promoted letting cows eat weeds.  There are few weeds that are poisonous and unless cows are starved, they won’t eat them anyway.  Many farmers and ranchers clip or mow pastures and weeds, especially this time of year preparing the paddocks to grow for winter stockpile.

I like to mow pastures – i’ve clipped pastures with a 9-foot sickle bar mower bouncing around (sweating and burning) on a modified wide front end Farmall 460 for years.  The result is a beautifully laid down forage that allows the new growth to pop through and look like a lush lawn.  It’s a good feeling —but i now question its profitability and no longer mow.

Alan Newport recently wrote on an article (Who’s Afraid of Weeds and Brush?) on this very thing.  Greg Judy espouses the benefits of weed grazing in his books and videos.

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Another example of mature forage laid down by decent grazing and trampling pressure.
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This photo is just terrible, but it shows on the left the cows have eaten even Kansas (lanceleaf) ragweed.  The right side of the fence has yet to be grazed.
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Well rested tall grass nicely laid down by trampling and eating.
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If my cows are getting this much grazing out of ragweed, i don’t see much point in mowing it except to lay down those stalks for better microbe use.  But can i afford to own and run a tractor to mow it?  What is left here, the cows will snarf it down once it’s dried down this winter.
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This is a thorny locust tree sprout practically stripped by my cows and calves.  I’ve owned sheep and they do a good job as well, but not any better than my cows.

Who’s afraid of weeds and brush?

In the right system, cattle grazing under ultra-high stock density will eat most “problem” plants and thrive doing it.

Alan Newport | Jun 05, 2019

 

Over the past year I have been grazing beef cattle at high stock density, and at times at ultra-high stock density grazing (UHDG), and I am regularly amazed at the things they eat.

A few examples are: Most of the leaves from buck brush (aka Indian currant), almost all the leaves they can reach from most trees, the top half or more of sericea lespedeza, a fair bit of ironweed and most ragweeds, and at least the top half of goldenrod. In fact, they clean up or at least take part of nearly everything in their environment. And they do it by choice. These plants are sometimes the first things grazed, sometimes the last things grazed, and sometimes taken in the middle of the grazing period. In other words, they are not eaten in desperation or starvation.

I’m sure some of you are asking what qualifies as UHDG. Johann Zietsman, the Namibian rancher and consultant who pioneered UHDG back in the 1990s, says a stock density of 1,000 to 2,000 animals per hectare. If we consider that one hectare is 2.47 acres and that Zietsman and his “disciples” typically run cows that weigh closer to 700 pounds than the 1,500-pound average for modern cattle, this helps us figure out a stock density of maybe 283,000 to 567,000 pounds of stock per acre — or higher. This generally matches my own definition that UHDG starts somewhere around 250,000 pounds per acre, while high stock density or very high stock density probably runs from 60,000 to 250,000 pounds per acre.

Anyway, last night my wife and I turned the cows into a really small paddock with tall and dense forage, in which I’d estimate from past experience they were grazing at well over 500,000 pounds of stock density. The little calves and the cows were all eating almost everything in there. There were still some cheatgrasses, some bermudagrass, a smattering of other warm- and cool-season grasses, and quite a bit of both lambsquarter (pigweed) and giant ragweed of the knee-high to thigh-high variety. They took it all out. It appeared to me each animal was eating a little bit of everything, switching from one plant type to another as they grazed. It’s pretty much what I’ve seen time and again under UHDG or even high stock density.

These are the same results I’m hearing from people all over the globe, on every continent. All are connected through Zietsman’s website and app-based discussion groups he runs. Their pictures and comments they share from their own ranches tell me volumes.

I’ll remind you the first goal of this type management is maximum sustainable profit per acre, which actually incorporates inseparably the goal of land improvement with beef production.

However, an advantage of this type management that has occurred to me lately is the reduced need for goats and sheep to eat the things cattle normally won’t eat. Maybe a little work by goats will be needed at times, but the cattle graze and browse almost all the plants. (Cedars and full-sized trees, of course, will require other control methods.)

Further, as I watch cattle of all ages graze/browse every imaginable kind of plant, I can only imagine what kind of quality they are building into their bodies, therefore their meat and milk.

Debi NewportCalf eating tree leaves

Even calves like fresh tree leaves that haven’t been exposed to grazing, therefore haven’t built up high tannins.

A few weeks ago, I published a blog about the importance of secondary and tertiary compounds in the quality and healthfulness of beef and other meats. It was called Here’s how grassfed beef really could be superior. If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend you do so. Fred Provenza and others recently published a great paper on the importance of these compounds particularly to humans eating meats from animals adapted to diverse, native habitats.

So, besides achieving the highest sustainable stocking rate, the fastest rate of soil and rangeland improvement, and the highest potential profit in a cow-calf operation, you’re also getting the best weed and brush control possible with cattle and the greatest consumption of plants providing a wide variety of nutritional benefits. And by the way, once they learn to eat these plants they will continue eating many of them even when grazing at lower stocking densities.

The caveat is that conventional cattle of today are very poor at this job. They have been bred to graze selectively under continuous grazing and generally to receive large amounts of hay and supplement through large portions of the year. We need to breed cattle suited to this task.

And incidentally, they will have good carcass quality because any beef animal that can thrive under this kind of grazing, laying on fat for winter survival, then fattening in the spring on green grass for calving and reproduction. Any animal that can get fat on grass has great potential to produce a quality carcass, and the US Meat Animal Research Center carcass data on the African Sanga breeds, as well as other testing, has indicated this is true.

The innovators and early adopters of grazing management and now cattle breeding are leading the way. I’m watching.

TAGS: BEEF WEEDS PASTURE

 

New Version Eggmobile

Oh my goodness, i’ve lost track of the number of eggmobiles i’ve built these past two decades.  The first one was large and on an ancient wagon running gear.  It was part of daughter Jessica’s Missouri Department of Agriculture sustainable ag grant she wrote for and received being the youngest ever at age 9!

Anyway, done bragging now and on to the newest plan.  My favourite ‘look’ is that of a Conestoga Wagon and this one is no exception although much smaller than the traditional real Conestoga.

The one i replaced was just worn out and had some issues which of course i corrected with the new version.

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This one was several years old and just dilapidated.  Wood was deteriorated and wasn’t a well balanced design making it awkward to pull around.  Also, as you can see the old wagon pull broke, the pop door was too short and manual, not enough nesting boxes or roosts, and overall it was simply too heavy.
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Moved it home and the old hens gave it a complete check out, then had no hesitation going back in.   Note this new version has an automatic pop door.  Should have done that on the very first one.  A very good investment even for my small flock.
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Had to come up with a new way of holding the ‘hoops.’  My previous eggmobile, i used 1 inch schedule 40 pipe and it has too much spring to it and i had it attached very securely.  This time, i raided the water pipe supply and chose 3/4 inch black HDPE pipe and it is much easier to handle.  Here i’m cutting short pieces of 1/2 inch PVC pipe.
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After drilling a hole to receive a longer 1/4 lag screw, i installed the screw with the plastic tube topped with a 1/4 inch flat washer.  Powered it in and it makes a sort home made sort of shoulder bolt.
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This view shows the nearly finished eggmobile.  I built it in separate pieces so that it can be disassembled if needed.  There is the floor which i reused (newer lumber).  Don’t use anything less than 1 x 2 inch welded wire.  It’s a little big for small chicks, but is perfect for grown hens because their poop will go right on through.  The second section is framed then sided with old corrugated plastic.  Except for new hardware, everything is reused on this.
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i installed a door on one side just in case i need access.

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See how the black pipe forms a nice hoop to hold the standard sized white tarp using the makeshift shoulder bolts.  Roosts are cut from old electric posts.
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The translucent panel is cut from an old solar panel cover.  Not sure if you could find those used.  My father-in-law had a couple left over from a business he tried starting about 40 years ago.
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Lift the lid and inside is the top level of the nesting boxes.  I may or may not end up dividing these.  If i do, it’ll probably just be little curtains.
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Lift the floor of the first level to collect eggs on the lower level.
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Ador1 battery powered automatic pop door.   Note the ladder like roosts – i have to change the supports to wider stance because if a hen edges to the outside, it will tip.  I also had to take off the green corrugated bit above the door and attach boards to secure the canopy.  i used more of the solar panel stuff to make it match the front.  At the front here, you can see that i built double decker nesting boxes – there are 6 now vs the 3 before.

This is the coolest ever.  It comes preset to automatically open at dawn and close at night.

Craft Supplies

For whatever reason, public school teachers seem to need to buy supplies for their classes each year, using money from their own pockets.  I won’t comment on that being right or wrong or even why because i simply don’t know.  However, we as home educators, really can’t afford to purchase extraneous supplies, so we are careful to collect and use free stuff for educational supplies.  When possible, we purchase secondhand textbooks and use them for all the children in the family.  Or we share with other families whose children may be similar in age, but offset just a bit.  (Currently, Missouri public education is funded by taxpayers at the rate of $10,457 per student per year).  Since i have three children – had that been sent to me, i could have managed nicely on $31,371 per year!

Missouri Statistics by district

Linn County R-I School District

Name: Linn County R-I School District
City: Purdin
Average Daily Attendance: 220.8
Expenditure per Pupil: $11,343.44
Local, Percent of Expenditure: 43.89%
Local, Contribution in Dollars per Pupil:$4,978.31
State, Percent of Expenditure: 46.54%
State, Contribution in Dollars per Pupil: $5,279.22
Federal, Percent of Expenditure: 9.57%
Federal, Contribution in Dollars per Pupil: $1,085.91

Brookfield R-III School District

Name: Brookfield R-III School District
City: Brookfield
Average Daily Attendance: 968.3
Expenditure per Pupil: $9,569.70
Local, Percent of Expenditure: 44.99%
Local, Contribution in Dollars per Pupil:$4,305.84
State, Percent of Expenditure: 43.91%
State, Contribution in Dollars per Pupil: $4,202.25
Federal, Percent of Expenditure: 11.09%
Federal, Contribution in Dollars per Pupil: $1,061.61

To that end, i have on hand various supplies that have been given to me or sent in the mail (we get a bunch of return addresses from outfits asking for donations and typically there are fun stickers and parts of the address that can be cut for stickers.)  Gifts that have been given to us (or i unapologetically collect tissue and paper from bridal showers or birthday parties that would have just been thrown away).  Coloured tissue paper is so fun for tearing into shapes (think Eric Carle) and making books.  Also, fun to fold and tie to make flowers, etc.

Coloured paper from flyers in the mail can be cut into strips to make decorative chains.

Making books involves math skills (ie: fold paper in half, one fourth), large and small motor skills (folding, tearing, punching holes, gluing, drawing, etc), sharing and helping (work in groups), creativity (develop story telling skills, logical and chronological thinking, and how to express ideas in picture and words), understanding relations (large and small, tall and short, etc), shapes, colours.  Goodness, so many skills in just one fun activity.  At the end, have each child read and show their creation to encourage public speaking and reading skills.

There are a multitude of craft and art activities that can be expanded to teach nearly all aspects of education.

Time is the most important investment in the education and training of your children.

Ask for, gather, then develop a plan using those free supplies.  Wow, you can even then teach the importance of repurposing, recycling, reducing.

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Some of this is brand new that was given to me but i have no use for so it needs to be in the hands of someone who can educate and encourage children.  Not shown is an envelope of stickers that i cut out of the Arbor Day return address labels that were sent in the mail.  

 

 

Cheese and Rice Casserole

An excellent non meat recipe.  But meat can easily be layered on and consider other vegetables.  Pictured here, I used sliced zucchini from my garden and added ground chicken breast from pastured poultry raised by my friends at Pigeon Creek Farm.

Cheese and Rice Casserole  (Riso e Formaggio) 

8 servings 

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup uncooked regular rice (or barley or couscous or any combination thereof)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper sauce (optional
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 medium onion (I used green onions)
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped (optional)
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella or Cheddar cheese (8 ounces)
  • 4 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2 ½ cups milk
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

 Heat water, rice, salt, mustard, red pepper sauce, and pepper to boiling, stirring once or twice; reduce heat.  Cover and simmer 30 minutes.  (Do not lift cover or stir.)  Remove from heat.  Fluff rice lightly with fork; cover and let steam 5 to 10 minutes.

Layer half the rice mixture in bottom of greased 11 x 7 x 1 ½ inch baking dish.  Top with 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (and 1 cup vegetable if desired); repeat.  Whisk together 4 eggs and 2 ½ cups of milk then pour over rice mixture.  Sprinkle with ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese.  (Casserole can be covered and refrigerated up to 24 hours at this point.)  Cook uncovered in 350°F oven until set; 45 to 50 minutes.  Let stand 10 minutes. Cut into squares.

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