Four Country Gals

  (Beryl, Utah)
Certified Organic Garden, Custom-raised lambs, hogs, goats, Mom's Farm-Fresh Eggs
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Systems make the farm go 'round

Systems are what allow us four gals to work our little farm.

Here's why they are so important. Bev is a double cancer survivor and  doesn't always have the most get up and go. Cindy is disabled with stenosis of the  back. I've had open  heart surgery and have moderate osteoarthritis in several joints. Mom is 83 and has had multiple medical issues. So,  we depend on systems, leverage, and teamwork to get things done.

When we decided to raise some animals, we contacted a local alfalfa grower. He now delivers our alfalfa annually right from the field. We generally order about 9 blocks (80 bales) to get us through the year. He puts it exactly where we want it. All we have to do is knock it down block by block and move  it to the animals.

For that, we bought a small John Deere tractor. John works for about $50 a month in fuel, and our payments are less than  $150. In another year, it will  be paid for.  I think it's one of the best investments we've made, as we use it to clean all the animal pens, keep the sand dunes down, move bales of hay, and haul feed, keep our farm paths clean,  and  our road groomed.

Last year, we bought a 40' storage container, and then  built shelving in it. That is where we store all our feed, any lumber for projects, our tools, and  all our farmers' market stuff. We have a work bench, and can  run electricity to it with a long extension cord.

 After the nightly freezes are over, we'll hook up the automatic water systems for the animals. Using PVC and small float valves, we can water the sheep, cows and most of the goats without having to drag a hose around.

With fuel being so expensive, we travel to Cedar City once a month and buy all the feed and supplies we need. We make a day of it, with either breakfast or lunch out. We go to IFA, Walmart, and anyplace else that Mom want's to go. With Cedar City being a 90 mile round trip, it makes sense to only go once a month. Mom goes a second time on  the Senior bus.

Someone generally has a doctor's appointment in  St George, so if one has an appointment, at least one  more of makes an appointment, too. Depending  upon the time of year, we may send two, three or all four of us. That is a several hour trip with St George being about a 120 mile round trip.

Bev drives school bus for the Enterprise elementary and high school, so  she's able to bring basic groceries and Rx's home from town as needed. That means our vehicles don't run very often.

During Farmers' Market season, we harvest in the morning and  go to market  in the afternoon. If there's anything we need, we get it before or after market, depending upon the load on truck. We've been going to only one market a week, but next year, will probably go to two markets, one on Saturday and one on Wednesday.

When it comes to the garden systems, we have a large tiller we use to turn the ground in  the spring. This year will be the last time we till the whole thing in the spring, as  we will be installing two hoop houses over the big garden. That means we'll  till in the fall and  plant a cover crop. In the spring, we'll use our little Mantis to open only the row space for planting. If we have to, we'll use the big tiller to turn the hairy vetch under first, but only where we're planting. We'll leave the rest of the vetch for our pathways, using our mower if necessary.

We use drip irrigation  systems, supplemented by overhead watering. The wind blows a lot here, so when that happens, we use exclusively drip. The plants really appreciate it when we can overhead water. It's like a drink of rain.

Cindy is building another aquaponics system where we'll grow a number of things. Not sure exactly what yet, but it will be exciting.  We have goldfish in  the feed tank, and  their waste feeds the plants, with the plant waste feeding the fish. We have that in our small hoop house, which will eventually be all aquaponics.

Since  we're Certified Organic, we operate our produce garden according to our Organic System Plan. That keeps on on track through our paperwork. We record all plantings, all watering, all pests and pest control, all soil input, all harvests, and all sales.

Bev takes care  of all the accounting, and tracks the animals using a software program called Ranch Manager. I take care of reviewing all the plans, updating them as necessary, and also I am the "digger". I clean the pens, and move sand, etc. Cindy is an all around helper.

We build most everything  we need. Bev was a draftsman  in  a past life and  can draw plans, estimate lumber, etc. She and Cindy are also good carpenters. I'm the gopher,  and the "stand on this - hold this " person.

Mom controls the kitchen,  even to the point of making sure we have our morning coffee. She wouldn't have it  any other way. We tease her a lot about her chickens... we care for them, we buy the feed, we gather the eggs, we sell the eggs... and she  gets all  the money.

So, as you can see... we use a number of systems to keep us on  track. 


 
 

Busy week, shearing, more kidding, aquaponics, and soon time to plant

What a week! With great spring weather,  we've been outside working on projects.  You know  the old adage, work on the farm is never done. Bev built some more feeders for the sheep, and we got those installed. Today we built a creep area for the lambs using pallets to separate it from the general feed area. 

The shearer was here yesterday, and confirmed that we still have 5 more first time ewes to lamb. Looks like we could be lambing into late May. He took all the fleece from the white faced ewes, and we kept the rest.  We're learning that wool buyers don't want any fleece from black faced sheep as they could have spare black hairs running anywhere in the pelt.

 We're replacing our ram (black face) with a white face this year. He  was going to be replaced anyway because we're not totally happy with his performance.

The two first-time goats  chose to go  into to labor simultaneously Thursday night. They presented us with a pair of twins each. Annie, our multicolored doe was clueless on her first, but cleaned and cared for her second while I helped the first get a full belly of colostrum. She had her two early in the evening just an hour apart.

Posey  (our black doe) was the slowpoke.We had figured she'd kid first, but surprise... She waited until about 1am to have her first one. She was totally clueless, and  uninterested in what she had done. Same thing  with her second kid.

Good news was  that Cindy and I were there. We knew better than to leave these two alone. Now, our goat shed is about 8 x 10 feet and slopes from 4 feet to 5 feet roof line. We have to crawl through the door, and then stay on our hands and knees  all the time.  Even after spending the night in there  with the goats, we have no plans to  raise the roofs. The lower line helps conserve heat in the winter.

Cindy has also been working on Phase II of her aquaponics system. She purchased a 275 gal IBC and has cut it into a couple of pieces. It as a real  test to get the pieces into the  greenhouse.  (Note:  the next  hoop houses will have much larger doors.) We had to dismantle the original blue barrel system, and this new one sits in the same place. The barrels will sit on  top of the south side garden box once this year's seedlings are out of there.

Give me a day or two and I'll have some new stories and pictures up on our main web site, http://fourcountrygals.com.

 
 
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