Blog

Spring green up is on!

After a long, cold winter the fields are greening up nicely. They are not quite ready for the cows to begin the grazing rotation because the grass still needs to grow but the color seems to change overnight. Fortunately, we have been able to purchase additional hay for them. They are tired of hay and let Jonathan know it when he checks on them each day, but they could damage the fields if turned in now.

Jonathan sowed fields 4 and 5 with clover, and it is beginning to sprout. The cover crop planted last fall in field 1 is also greening up nicely.

Some of the tree have buds on them. The buttercups are blooming. The honeybees are on the hunt for any available pollen. Theodora still enjoys some of her meals in the yard. It is still a bit chilly for reports to resume from the front porch, but spring is in the air!

Beehives – Top Entrances

We are using top entrances on out beehives. Conventionally, langstroth hives (modern hives), have a bottom board and a spacer that allows the hive to set up just enough to make an entrance. We remove this space above the bottom board and put it at the top. This keeps us from having to keep the grass cut as short so fewer cuts during the year, or less time required. This also gets the entrance further from the ground. Further from the ground means that the skunks have a much more difficult time reaching the bees. Skunks will camp in front of a hive and scratch around the entrance to get bees to come out and then eat them and can put a hurting on a hive’s population.  Here’s a terrible picture of hive #6.  Next time I’ll try to take a picture with the sun at my back 🙂

Honeybee Hive

Nuclear Hives

Well, they’re actually nucleus hives, or nucs for short; they’re not radioactive or anything.  These are small hives that we have been experimenting with this year.  They are housed in a hive that holds 5 frames, or half the number of frames of our regular hive body.  This means less space to heat and cool and defend.  We set these guys up and let them make their own queen and work on building their hive.  This gives us a kind of insurance policy.  So without a nuc, if we were to loose a queen in a large hive there would be three options to choose from:

1 Do nothing.  The hive would likely die and we would loose any honey/pollen/nectar that was stored due to robbing.

2 Order a queen.  She would take a few days to get here and take a couple of days to start laying, so for about $30 we would only have about 5-7 days of no production of new bees.

3 Let them make their own queen.  This takes some manipulation time on the beekeeper’s part, but is doable.  It takes a hive about 30 days from starting to raise a queen ’till she starts laying, then another 25 days or so until the eggs she laid start hatching.

With a nuc handy, as soon as I realize there’s no queen in a large hive, I can use the queen from the nuc and put her in the hive that’s missing one and get them right back on track.  While it may not seem like a huge difference in choices, if your honey flow is only 30 days long like it is some spring seasons, you can’t afford to miss any days of production or you could miss out on honey for the entire year!

This is how we use our nucs as another tool in our management practices.

Spring chickens are finished

We have completed our raising and harvest of our spring batch of chickens.  They averaged 5 lbs and we were very pleased with the way they turned out.  We used a new hatchery as well as a new pen design and thankfully it all worked out great!

If you’re interested in pasture raised, organically fed chickens, contact us and we’ll get you set up!

Open House and Farm

Dear Friends,

I learned recently from Southern Living that the word “porch” can also be used as a verb. Most of the pictures sent in the farm updates are views from our front porch. This Saturday, May 31st, from 6pm – 9pm we invite you to visit the farm to “porch” with us for our 2nd annual open farm/house.

You may want to bring your supper to have on the porch. We recommend the BBQ sandwich from Burnett’s, the Marathon gas station at Exit 31 (pickles on the sandwich with mild sauce on the side).

You may want to do chores with Jonathan around 7pm. You can help water and move chickens. You can meet the roosters, Rocky, Prince and Pierre, to decide which is the most handsome. You can gather eggs from the ladies. You can learn how to tell the difference between Spot and Speck and help move all the cows to new pasture. Or you can see the infrastructure that makes all of this easier.

You may want to do none of the above and simply rock the time away watching the world go by. Time melts away on the porch.

The real show begins around 8:30 when the lightening bugs begin to make their appearance. Because we do not use chemicals on our fields their numbers create a magical show difficult to describe.

We have a special on our grass fed/finished beef – buy 3 packages of ground beef or pre-made hamburger patties and get 1 free. Fresh eggs will also be available to purchase.

Rain or shine we will be here and hope to see you this Saturday!

Judith & Jonathan

Critter!

There was a yellow-bellied slider (turtle) traveling from one pond to another sometime last year that I got some pictures of, but yesterday it was a different turtle traveling the same path. This time was an alligator snapping turtle. He was a pretty big one, the biggest I’ve ever been this close to. I dropped a quarter on his back and took some pictures, then after two attempts to get my quarter back I decided I liked all my appendages attached and let him keep the quarter.alligator snapping turtle

Corn

The sweet corn is gone, but WOW the response to it was quite a surprise!  We experimented this year with growing corn in the paddock where the cows over-wintered  and were able to grow a pretty decent crop of yellow sweet corn, the “incredible” variety.  I also planted some non-hybrid, open pollinated, certified organic field corn and it seems to be doing well.  This was an experiment on several levels, one was to see if we could plant some crop that would take advantage of the intense fertilization and nitrogen (ie. manure) that was available in the area, and another to see if anyone would possibly be interested in such a thing.  Well, the results are in and the corn grew well and the response was overwhelming!  We sold all our corn after getting a few dozen for us to eat and put up, and I must say that it was some really, really sweet, juicy, wonderful stuff.

We’ve never really been interested in growing vegetables, but the response to the corn and the ensuing inquiries from many customers about what other vegetables we have is enough to make us re-think our no vegetables stance.  We’ll have to see, but it’s a possibility 🙂

We Made The Paper!

Here’s the story from the Ashland City Times!

Field Day Picture From Times

Pictured are (from left) Phil Dawson, vice chairman; Janice Weiss, district secretary/technician; Edwin Hogan, member; Darwin Newton, member; David Shores, chairman; Wynne Luter, NRCS; Chase Coakley, NRCS; and Jonathan and Judith Smith. / Submitted photo

 

The Cheatham County Soil Conservation District hosted a pasture walk and awards day on May 3 at Happily Ever After Farm on Old Clarksville Pike in Joelton (owners Jonathan and Judith Smith).

About 65 landowners were welcomed by district chairman David Shores.

During the pasture walk, attendees were given information on a number of topics by special guests.

Following the pasture walk, the district supervisor’s grilled grass fed beef burgers that came from the Smith’s farm.

After lunch the district announced its “2012 Conservation Farmer of the Year” award winner — Jonathan D. Smith.

About six years ago divine circumstances led to the purchase of his existing farm, which under former ownership the property was used for horse pasture and livestock had unlimited access to the pond and creek, and pastures were overgrazed and compacted.

Smith attended Master Beef Producer classes and became a Master Beef Producer. In 2010, Smith began participating with the Cheatham County SCD and Natural Resource Conservation Service.

Since then they have partnered to produce a Forest Management Plan, which developed management strategies to meet his conservation and economic forest goals.

The district has worked extensively together in the development of infrastructure needed to facilitate a prescribed grazing system.

Practices have included permanent and temporary cross fencing, livestock water well and a solar powered pumping plant, livestock pipeline and watering facilities.

Smith has balanced his livestock stocking rate and rotates his cattle on a one to three day basis so to maximize forage growth. He has taken it upon himself to exclude his livestock from natural surface water sources. His pastures have been inter-seeded with legumes and pollination has been improved by keeping two hives of bees on the property.

A group of layer hens and multiple crops of broiler chickens are rotated behind cattle; a great method for cycling nutrients and producing some healthy chickens.

The culmination of the Smith’s efforts has allowed them to now offer grass-finished USDA certified beef, pastured poultry and free range organic eggs. None of the animals are given antibiotics or hormones. Farm management practices follow organic guidelines.

The Smiths believe firmly in the principle of growing healthy natural foods. Smith has recently applied for the USDA-NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program in an effort to further improve his farm.

The Cheatham County SCD also announces the election of Darwin Newton of Pleasant View to the district board.

Newton has a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and biology and a master’s degree in plant physiology. He is currently employed by Western Kentucky University, working with the university and USDA Agriculture Research Service in animal waste management research and is the president and CEO of Soil Search of Tennessee Inc. (Enviromental Consulting Company).

The following sponsors made this day a great success: Cheatham County Farm Bureau, H & R Agri-Power, Reeves Septic Tank Service, King Automotive, Tennessee Ag Enhancement, Natural Resource Conservation Service, UT & TSU Cheatham County Extension and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.