October 19, 2021

From the Pastures: From the Pastures: Farm worth the trip

Hello from Graze-N-Grow. I feel blessed since our last rain, seven-tenths, because crops and pastures are doing great. I recently talked with a friend, an organic farmer, from extreme northern Iowa, who’s had all of 3.5 inches for the whole year and nothing so far in June. It’s difficult to get too excited about crop prices under those conditions. Since my prayers for rain have been answered, I now shift my requests for Kendall.

We’ve now got all the corn and beans up, so hoeing, weeding and cultivating are in full swing. We also have some hay down, our first cutting after spring grazing. I hope hay supplies this year don’t end up like lumber and steel. Pastures here are keeping ahead of the sheep and cattle, but that’s how it’s supposed to be this time of year.

Since we have the ram lambs sorted off we have two groups to move instead of one, but we have one less group of stock to move, the goats. They literally ate themselves out of house and home with their recent foray into Ruth’s plant benches at the greenhouse. It was a sight to behold one morning as I was doing chores about 6 o’clock to see 17 billy goats up on benches pulling up plants as fast as workers in a produce field.

After I finally got them corralled, there were hundreds of wounded veggies on the ground. By then Ruth came out to milk Ella and that ruined her morning since we spent over an hour trying to salvage some of the least damaged and matching them up with their tags. It seems cabbage and kohlrabi was their favorite. Soon after, they found a new home with my friend, Dave, who recently built a fence around a new pasture. There was a no-return policy with the deal. I hope we are still friends next year.

We recently had some Chicago folks out to butcher lambs and they, like most of our city customers, are so glad to escape the city they tend to bring the family along and hang around just to enjoy the peace and quiet of nature they lack and breathe without a mask. I have learned this past year especially to not take for granted the privilege of being on a farm. With a little more energy than I have, these farm visits could be a profitable venture equal to our meat sales. It would be cheaper than a Disney visit and much more authentic. Right now the egg gathering, cow milking and pasture visits are free, but that could change.

Ruth had a couple fellows here at the greenhouse, one of which was a landscaper, who happened to notice and admire our rock collection, which I have brought in from the field over many years or dug up from old building foundations. He said they were selling for as much as $300 a ton. I think I have found my retirement income as I have many boulders 2 to 5 feet across. Maybe I could at least get reimbursed for all the disc blades and plow lays and cultivator sweeps I’ve broken over the last 50 years. It seems farming offers more crops than just corn and beans. If only I was 20 again. Maybe one of you could tackle some of these opportunities. Happy trails.

Jim Draper

Jim Draper

Sheffield, Ill.