• 25Dec

    Wishing everyone happy holidays and successful farming adventures in the year to come!

    Christmas Farm Cartoon

  • 24Apr

    Some of you have probably had the pleasure of reading a couple of the raw stories that my friend Steve Riddle shared on this site a while back.

    He’s both a fantastic writer, and someone who shares a lot in common with many of the new and beginning farmers I’ve met through this site. Many of his stories are absolutely hilarious. Many are sobering. But they all “tell it like it is” from his perspective. The first one he sent in 3 pieces in a facebook post because facebook only lets you write a certain number of words before it cuts you off. I was immediately captivated, and when I read it aloud to my wife we were both laughing so hard I had to keep taking breaks to catch my breath. Then I started reading it to anyone who would listen. A lot of my friends are cynics, and others are perhaps a tad self involved. But everyone who allowed me to read it to (both farmers and non-farmers) had similar reactions – not only the laughing aloud part, but something along the lines of: “seriously, this guy you don’t really know sent you this thing on facebook? He’s either crazy, brilliant, or both”… Anyway, everyone I could get to let me read it to them or read it themselves absolutely LOVED it.

    About a week later I got an e-mail about a farmer writing competition from a publisher I don’t even remember what the prize was supposed to be. But two days later the publisher asked me to take down the post because the funding fell through. Well I just couldn’t let it go, so I got in touch with the publisher and shared a couple of Steve’s stories with him. He wrote back almost immediately, I put the two of them in touch, and the result is now published and available in electronic form.

    It really is a terrific book, and everyone who’s reviewed it on Amazon is of the same opinion. It tells about Steve’s experience starting the farm, and shares many of his madcap adventures – some disastrous, many hilarious, but all true, and written with a personal style that is both humble and heartwarming. Anyway, I highly recommend it. It’s a fun and easy read, and it only costs 3 bucks.

    I’m really proud to call Steve a friend. And I guarantee that after you read it you’ll think of him as a friend as well. I have no stake in this, and assure you that he’s not making a bunch of money from this venture. He’s just a farmer with some great stories to tell, and he happens to be good at doing that. Buy the book here: http://www.amazon.com/So-We-Bought-Farm-ebook/dp/B0068WAFRC

    So We Bought The Farm

  • 19Sep

    Cows may be dumb, but apparently they actually love jazz, at least this video, which presents some of the best real life cow humor I’ve ever seen would suggest.

    Growing up working on a dairy farm I spent a lot of time around cows. Enough time to know that they definitely have their own personalities and temperaments. But in my experience they are not particularly intelligent, even as farm animals go. Some are more precocious than others, but in any herd there are generally more than a few who will ignore any attempt to get their attention short of “driving” them toward food or the milking barn. Even then, there are often one or two who will be stubborn and either ignore you, or simply choose to be recalcitrant. A cow herd is certainly unlikely to simply take a break from feeding on good pasture and come up to the edge of a field in mass even to check you out, I’ve certainly never accomplished it, despite many attempts. This video shows

    The cows in this video have really nice pasture, and it appears that the individuals trying to get their attention are unfamiliar, have no food, nor do the cows expect to be fed by them, as evidenced by the fact that they remain at a distance of perhaps 50 yards. In my fairly extensive experience, some cows will ignore you if you come up to the edge of their pasture and try to get their attention while others will come to check you out. But chewing your cud all day may be a little bit boring, and I’ve never tried anything this entertaining, and I’ve never seen an entire herd come and line up to check out a group of visitors with whom they are unfamiliar. This video seems to suggest that cows, at least these cows, actually like Jazz.

    I suspect it’s the low register from the tuba ( more than anything that intrigues them, since it mimics their own call (“the cow says Moooo…”). But it’s pretty darn funny in any case, and only like 2 minutes long, so you really should check it out and have a laugh…

  • 16May

    Another Steve Riddle Story , this one about Sheep Farming, is Hilarious, Calamitous, Outrageous, True and masterfully told – everything we’ve come to expect. If you’ve read Steve’s Goat Story and/or his Chicken Story in the past weeks you know why he is my favorite beginning farmer storyteller, and you’ve almost certainly laughed aloud with him. Well I promise you his sheep farming story will not disappoint. Unafraid to admit his foibles and allowing us to ride along with him as he shares his hilarious tales of misadventure and the often challenging process of learning to become a farmer, Steve Riddle is a true original.

    The Misadventures of 8-Ball Wentz & the Soggy Bottom Boy – By Steve Riddle

    This last trip included a promise to a night out on the town, as I was away from home, and his wife was off at a trial. John promised me that if I’d stick around until after he got off work, he’d take me to one of those gentlemen’s clubs with hot topless dancers and cold, cold beer. I thought what the heck and decided to stick around as I had taken off work for the week.

    As soon as John got home he said we had a few errands to run before we hit the bars. We hopped into the clown car. (A car justifiably named so, because of its extremely small size, and comparable amount of stuff John puts in there. He’s had sheep, dogs, kids (-the human kind), calves, beer, livestock feed, (by the pallet load) fencing supplies, lumber, you name it! That Chevy truck commercial, “…there’s nothing as tuff as a Chevy truck” has nothing on what all you can do with a little Ford Fiesta.

    So anyway, we hop into his clown car, and head out to his neighbor’s where we leave the car and steal a great big, 1-ton dodge dually and a gooseneck trailer. I do get to see a part of this guy’s place, where they milk out by hand, sixty-five head of dairy goats. At first I thought that was a lot of work. But then I realized while one of his kids was showing me around the place that it provides a wonderful bonding experience for the whole family as they all help in the milking.

    Now we’re in the truck heading for his Mother-in-laws farm, where she also dairies goats, but uses machines all through the winter, to milk something like two hundred and something head. While there, we load six cheviot lambs to take to the auction sale about an hour’s drive from Portage. After we load her sheep, we head back to Johns to load a bunch of his sheep to take up to the sale as well. Since it was dark and raining out, he decided to take all of that lot and sort out the ones he didn’t want to sell yet back into the trailer while we had the light of the sale barn to sort by. Even at that, it took damn near an hour just to load those mangy, stinking beasts into the back of the trailer.

    By this time, it’s getting late, like about eight-thirty or so, and I’ve been thinking about food for the past hour. Oh hell, whom am I trying to kid, I’m always thinking about food. But now I really mean it. About this time John asks if I’ve ever eaten at a Culver’s restaurant, saying how good their hamburgers are and that they started right around in that part of the state many years ago. So now I’m thinking, good he’s hungry too and we’ll stop and get something to eat before we go out drinking and womanizing all night.

    Sheep Farmers

    Steve (right) and John (left)

    But first, we had to unload those sheep up at the sale barn, and then, (You mean there’s more? How much more do we have to do before we can eat and then go drinking?) Then, after we unload the sale sheep and reload the ones not going for sale, then we have to drive over to Jean Bass’ place and steal several head of sheep from her, while she and her husband are off at the same set of trials John’s wife is at.

    So now, I’m hungry, wet, tired, cold, lost, and thirsty for alcohol, did I mention hungry? Sheep stinky, sore, and I haven’t mentioned it yet, but the elastic in my underwear gave out awhile back, and now it’s riding down below my thighs and the inside of the inseam of my bib overalls, which by the way is soaked and muddy from all the rain I’ve been standing in trying to load all these dirty stinking sheep all night.

    And now, when we almost get there, I find out that John really doesn’t know exactly where the turn off is in Madison to get to Jean’s place, so he has to call and get directions after making a wrong turn. Now we make it into her driveway, and it’s still raining like Bengals and Borders.  He tells me to go open the cattle panel in the fence so we can drive out into the pasture and use the livestock handling equipment to help load the sheep in a hurry, because it’s getting late, still raining, and did I mention I was hungry? And couldn’t see a thing in the dark, and the rain.

    I mention to him, and I quote, “Do you think we’ll get stuck if we drive out into the pasture with it raining like this?” to which he responds, and I again quote, “No, this is a four wheel drive, 1-ton diesel, we can’t get stuck in this thing.” (Now that statement is quoted and on record as being his words, exactly as phrased. I want to make sure that is clear!) Read more »

  • 09May

    Another hilarious story by Steve Riddle about Learning to Farm. I titled this one myself: Chickens and Eggs – TR

    You know, some people just shouldn’t be farming!

    Plus I’m having trouble just thinking of a thread title for how stupid this one was….

    Just so everyone knows, NO I didn’t grow up on a farm! But in my encounters with things that lay eggs, such as fish, …or frogs, I just thought this was a given, a part of nature, …the way things are. You know, there are certain times in peoples lives that things of such fierce emotion, it causes them to be unable to talk about it until years later, sometimes the sharing even skips a generation and the information is shared between a grandparent and grandchild. I wonder what that son or daughter feels like when they find out second-hand from their child what war stories grandpa had to tell them. Or, other family secrets….

    So, back those many years ago, my only encounter with critters that had eggs was a little caviar I would have at some of the military parties and functions my dad would go to. I could compare that with the fish in the fish tanks, or the small pond and look into the heavy moss and water-weeds and see the eggs and tadpoles from the frogs.

    Living on base housing, yes we ate chicken eggs, had them for breakfast on many mornings, had them in cakes and other baked goods, but did I ever see a chicken lay that egg, …..no. So, you just make assumptions. And don’t tell me about that whole “never assume anything, it just makes an ass out of u and me” yes, yes, ….we all know that one. But honestly, I think if you would be truthful with your self, you’d make an assumption too.

    So, here we are years later and I have just bought my little farm, and I’m honestly, kinda proud, it’s more land than my father had ever owned. He only had 5 acres out in the country before he passed on. THIS, however, was a farm, …..a 7.5 acre farm, with the barns and out buildings and great big old white farmhouse.

    So, proud as I could be, we set up for some chickens to lay eggs. But not being from the farm, I like so many other people out there had to ask that question, …you know what it was too don’t you? “Well, will the chickens lay eggs even if there isn’t a rooster around?” Seriously, that’s not that stupid of a question. (Well, for me it wasn’t) ..because I can get even more stupid-er than that.

    So, after getting the chickens AND rooster, I had the next boxes and straw and old shredded newspapers to make nests out of. And even started having a few eggs arriving in the nests which we would go and collect because at the time, we really didn’t want or need replacement chicks. We wanted to eat our bounty! But a few months into it, I started thinking about how fast our free range chicken operation was feeding the local coyote population, and decided that there would have to be some fast administration to the operation if I had to feed the coyote population as well as my family farm operation…..

    OMG, I’m so embarrassed, here it goes…. So, I worked in a cubicle next to a woman who grew up as a farm girl all her life and they raised chickens, in fact, the ones I started with came from her family farm. I thought it was nice of her and her folks to offer such a kind offering. kinda like “here, welcome to the farm life”.

    So, realizing I had to leave the eggs in the nest if we were to repopulate the diminishing number of egg laying hens, I approached my co-worker and first had to inform her that their kind offering was feeding the local coyotes, it was humiliating, having to admit that I couldn’t really farm, or even keep those land buzzards from eating my hens. She was however, very nice about it all and explained that things like that just happen on farms sometimes, it’s up to the farmer to out-wit the predators.

    Whew, glad that was over, she truly understood. Now I just had to admit my ignorance and ask one more question. To which she readily focused her attention to my question, and looking her square in the eyes I asked, “So, how many eggs does it take to lay in the nest before the rooster will come along and fertilize them? and how does the sperm actually penetrate the hard shell?”

    I will tell you this, tears fell on both side of that conversation. hers from laughing so loudly that others from our office wing had to come see what was going on, and from me, for being so beyond stupid, that all I could do was cry, ….OMG! what have I gotten myself into? I’ll never cut it as a farmer….

  • 02May

    Written by Steve Riddle, a farmer in Wisconsin this was called “Revised Goat Story” when he posted it on my Facebook Page. I think it’s the best goat farming story ever. When I read it I laughed so hard I had tears streaming down my face, seriously it’s hilarious. And this is no tall tale, it’s all true. Actually, there’s no way you could make this up. I hope you enjoy his gift for describing farming disasters as much as I do. In my experience there are a lot of these kinds of things that beginning farmers go through as part of the learning process, but I’ve never found anyone who could tell them so well. Luckily Steve has agreed to share several more of his stories with us over the coming weeks. This story is not profane in any way, but there were a couple of phrases in it that I edited because I was worried that a search engine might take them out of context. Anyway, here it is:

    Our 1st attempt with goats was a freebie that was lost in a storm and ended up in my mother-in-laws subdivision. So we kept it. Not sure at first what sex it was because it had horns we thought must be a male, then we figured out real quick, NOT a male as there wasn’t a “package” dangling from the backside. So we named her Gotcha. We had her for a year or so. Then the following Mothers Day a volunteer where I work at offered me a male goat, FOR FREE!!! Well hell, didn’t take this Scotsman descendant too long to think about that one. (A second free goat, hey this farming thing is gonna be slick -we’re gonna get everything for free!!!!)

    So I went to pick him up in my 1982 VW Vanagon, (stick shift) It took some adjustment, driving down the road, shifting gears and steering with one hand and my knee, while holding him by his massive set of horns with the other. Now, Mother’s Day is in May, so as cool as it was there was no real reason to have the windows down, and once I started on this trek, I really didn’t have a free hand to roll down a window, if you know what I mean. During that short trip I thought more than once he almost broke free of my grip as he lunged forward and back, and he took the liberty of scratching his chin on the backside of my passenger seat.

    Well, it only took about 3-5 minutes in that VW holding onto that goat to start to smell…..something. Something horrible smelling, something unlike anything I had smelled before. Thank God it was only about a 30 minute ride back to the farm. (For those out there that have never had the pleasure of being around a male goat before, they do this male macho, ritual “thing”. They spray their beard with a combination of their own  fluids [this is my edit - just trying to keep us from getting site blocked - TR] and over a period of time it builds to quite an unusual and distinctive scent.)

    So getting out of the van, I presented her with the goat I got her for Mothers Day. I guess to explain the total situation, I don’t want anyone to think I’m the type of guy who’d pick up a FREE gift for my wife, then turn around and give it to her. Truth is on Saturday I was at an auction and managed to pick up a Sears self-propelled, electric start lawn mower for only $45 WHAT A BARGAIN…! When I got home Saturday, she said no way was she going to accept a lawn mower for a gift. (So now you see I HAD no choice than to pick up the goat.) I figured, if she wasn’t going to mow, I needed some way to keep the grass down, thus the male goat… unloading the new male goat from my van, I had no idea that it would take several weeks before the SMELL of him would leave my beloved VW van. Read more »

  • 30Dec

    Have $3,500 for a ritzy chicken coop? from Grist – Food by Holly Richmond.

    You there. Do you have high-maintenance chickens? How about $3,500? Then you’re in luck. For that trifling sum, a three-story chicken coop can be yours. The designer calls it a “luxury condominium for chickens.” Put it next to your platinum-plated garden trellis and your diamond-encrusted watering bucket.

    No, really: The finished structure includes four nesting rooms, a sliding tray for cleaning, a third-floor roosting area and a solar-powered fan—features for “discriminating poultry,” Mr. Ramsey said.

    So if you keep three hens for a year—each laying about five eggs and eating two pounds of organic feed a week—a dozen eggs will only cost you $57! What a steal.

    Related Links:

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    Snowbound city chickens lay eggs for a decadent quiche [VIDEO]

    Men in aprons, food-police backlash, and 8 more trends

  • 25Dec

  • 27Nov

    Nation Waist-Deep In Soybeans After $30 Trillion Farm Subsidy Bill Accidentally Passed

    EXCERPT: WASHINGTON—Days after the accidental passage of a bill allocating $30 trillion in federal subsidies to soybean producers, a massive tide of the protein-rich legumes has flooded the nation, crippling transportation networks, commerce, and public utilities, and profoundly disrupting American life.

    “Soybeans are everywhere,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Wednesday, noting that all 406 million acres of arable land in the United States have been converted to soybean cultivation as farmers sought a share of funds worth more than twice the gross domestic product. “Many citizens have shoveled out their driveways only to find that schools and businesses have been shut down. Millions more remain trapped indoors as windblown soybean drifts cover entire houses.”

    “For most, simply getting to the grocery store has become impossible,” Vilsack continued. “Not that grocery stores have much in them besides soybeans at this point.”

    Read the full satire HERE

  • 24Nov

    thanksgiving farm cartoon

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