Antics at Antaya Acres
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As many of you know, this is our first year as a CSA. I have been selling produce down in Rochester for the last couple of years out of a 3 acre garden we had always kept here on the 10 acres where we live. CSA is just a little larger scale then what I was doing before. I have had family members and friends ask why Community Supported Agriculture makes sense for their family. So I thought I would take a little time and address that here this morning. The United States isn’t the same kind of country it was when our grandparents were growing up. In the 1930’s when my grandparents were young, each family supplied much of what they consumed. My Great-grandma Myer had 9 children of her own, and she raised 2 young indian girls as well. They grew a large garden. When berries were in season, everyone picked berries. My grandmother used to take me out berry picking when I was a girl. I was astounded how fast that woman could fill up a berry bucket. When I asked her how she could pick that fast, she responded “When I was just a girl, my father used to take us 9 kids out to pick berries. He would tell us when we got there how many we would be picking, and we would stay until we met his quota. Everyone picked. When the older children had what they needed - they helped the younger children. When we were done, my father would pick my mother a bouquet of daisies, and we would all head home.” They had a milk cow too. And my grandmother tells me now, that her father raised the meanest pigs in all of God’s creation, which they butchered to help feed their bustling family. Living off what you grow, taking what you work for, and nothing more - that is who we used to be as a nation. We have lost some of our collective identity. We stopped working as hard for what we needed, because we no longer had to.
We need to again - its that simple. Michigan has one of the worst state economies in the country right now. We have many more people moving out then moving in, and the welfare rolls are growing. People feel lost. We are hurting, and now more than ever, we should be supporting each other. The people who worked for Ford and GM, who no longer have a job due to downsizing and relocations, would tell you that if you live in Michigan and you are driving a foreign made car, you are choosing to take money out of the pocket of your neighbor. That is money your neighbor won’t spend at your local business. Taxes he won’t contribute to the local school system that both of your children attend. Taxes that could make a broken system better. We are all a web of choices and consequences in our lives, our families, our state, and our country. Our choices positively or negatively affect one another. Taking from the teaching of Randy Carlson - we all need to live intentionally. Evaluating each decision carefully and making the very best one.
Everyone reading this can choose to go down to your local grocery and pick up your vegetables there, and yes you will be supporting your local store, but please don’t be mistaken into thinking that you are supporting your local farmers by making that choice. Even the Whole Foods in Rochester, who claims to be a provider of local meats and produce, purchase and import their ‘free range’ chickens from Chicago, where they are grown in a dome. I promise you, there are plenty of Michigan farmers raising genuinely free range birds here to meet their needs. Choosing to support CSA is the best way to get the freshest produce at a price better then you will get at your local groceries. And anything in your share is guaranteed grown in Michigan. Next time you are in Krogers, pick up one of their black hand baskets - the wire ones, fill it with as much organic produce as it will hold and take it to the checkout. One of those wire baskets holds less than half a bushel of produce, which is the amount we provide as a half share from our farm every week. I promise you it will cost you more than $20, and the varieties available there are nowhere near as diverse as what we offer from the farm. That basket of produce from Krogers will benefit farmers in Mexico, Chile, and Brazil. There might be some Michigan produce in there, but probably not much, and definately less than half. That isn’t good enough. In supporting your CSAs, you are supporting your neighbors, and your state and local economies. As Michiganders, we need to be very conscious of how much of what we make is staying here. Please consider supporting your local farms through their CSA programs. Your family and theirs will benefit greatly. Steph
This posting was originally from our website blog, and a few of our friends suggested we also post it on our blog here.
Prayer for the day: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for our friends, our family, and our farm. Help us serve and represent You well in all that we do today. Help our work be fruitful, and our faith be strong. Keep us focused and diligent. Help us to set goals and accomplish them, and to meet our obligations. Please provide for our needs as only you can. Help baby Livy feel better and help Lucas’ stuffy nose to clear up. Thank you for hearing and answering our prayers. Amen
Posted by Brett & Stephanie
@ 08:21 AM EDT
Yesterday started out a lot like most days here on the farm: up at dawn to throw hay for the sheep and the pigs. Its a good opportunity to peruse your animals and make sure everyone is happy and healthy. Its the only birds eye view I get of them all throughout the day. While I am out daily intermingling through the flock and the herd. Its the morning feeding when I get the best comprehensive view. We throw the hay down from the bed of our F-350 flatbed, so at that time in the morning I can see everyone. Or I can usually see everyone. As I looked out yesterday, my eyes wandered through the lines of animals, and I noticed Aries, didn't come. Cordelia is close to delivering what I am sure are triplets and my initial thought was that as a leadersheep - maybe something had happened with her and he was back looking over her. I finished feeding and Alex, our 14 year old daughter went back to look for him. He wasn't there either. Then I knew something was wrong. Icelandic leader rams are diligent, and Aries, our big spotted fellow, was always true to form. We walked the yard, and there he was..down on his side. There wasn't a mark on him, but he must have passed in the night, because his beautiful wool had already frozen to the snow. He is our first loss to our flock, and the first adult animal we have lost here. We have been blessed in that. As I tried to loose him from the snow, my dog Eclipse, nosed his hind quarters to try and get him to stand. He didn't understand it either. I explained to Eclipse that he wasn't coming with us this time, and I scratched his neck. Alex and I laid him on the boards and we said goodbye. For some farms, its part of 'the way things are'..its 'what happens on a farm'. For us, we lost our friend - and I will miss the beauty and grace of him for a long time as I look out at the others. His legacy lives on here. His lambs will be here soon. But he was life, created by God to serve a purpose here on our farm - and he's gone. Goodbye my friend.
Posted by Brett & Stephanie
@ 07:28 AM EST
Ten inches of snow 3 days ago, and here I sit filling in my seed order. I am so ready for garden Its infecting my dreams. Last night was the piglets raiding the pumpkin patch dream, and I don't even have the pigs and the garden on the same property. After a bitter cold, but not too snowy Michigan winter (the ten inches the other day was one of only 2 really signifigant snows all season), I'm ready for planting trays, fresh garden fare, sun tea, and sweat. Our four kids are just bursting with anticipation. They were piled up on me looking through that seed book this morning like we were breaking dirt tomorrow. Cassie wants strawberries. Lucas has never met a tomato he didn't like, and the 15 varieties I actually did order were no where near sufficient to cover his appetite for the garden favorite. Alex is 14, as of this Saturday, and she just wants to grow everything big - Dill's Atlantic Giant Pumpkins, Kolb's Gem watermelons, Honey Rock cantaloupe. If I grew like Alex wants me to, I could barely fit one CSA share in the back of the flat bed - which I am sure the customers would see the value in, as they pondered what to do with their 900lb. pumpkin. And that still leaves Olivia, she will be 1 on St. Patrick's Day - she just likes to crinkle the pages for now (usually in that precise moment I am trying to copy the item number onto the order form), but by mid-summer she will be tumbling through the garden, stuffing her cheeks full of cherry tomatoes right next to Lucas.
I think the influx of babies on the farm adds to spring fever. We had 7 litters of piglets in 10 days. Makes for a tired household, let me tell you. For those of you who don't know, almost all piglets are born at night, so an anticipated litter means bi-hourly barn checks and once they do arrive..what a joy they bring. I've raised dogs for years, but there is nothing cuter than a baby Large Black Hog. Except of course, one's own children - but its still close. Well it appears God heard my prayer this morning, and the sun is coming out to greet me. I better not waste such a blessing. Happy Spring and May God bless you with answered prayers this morning too!
Posted by Brett & Stephanie
@ 07:28 AM EST
What a beautiful morning here in Michigan. Big fluffy flakes were floating down slowly and the glare off of the new fallen snow was almost blinding. I love days like this. Being from Northern Wisconsin originally, I cherish bright mid-winter days. They break up the dismalness of an otherwise seemingly endless season. If the sun is bright enough, the heartlift it gives can raise the temperature outdoors by 30 degrees. Unfortunately this morning, we were running a little shy on wood for the stove, and the temperature inside was in need of a boost. The kids were busying themselves with the schoolwork and Brett was finishing up in the barn, so I suited up and headed out the door and off the porch to gather logs from the woodpile. The first two trips to the pile and back were most fruitful...one more would do it. As I stepped off of the last step, I stopped and smiled to myself as the dogs bounded through the snowdrifts scooping up snow in their mouths as they chased each other across the side yard. I don't quite know how the aussies manage that full bouncy run with their tongues dangling long out the sides of their mouths. They don't slow down a bit to gobble the snow either. They never break stride. I watched and enjoyed their romp while I made my way back out to the pile. I tossed up the last log on my opposite arm and clenched them tight in front of me, took a deep breath, and began walking slowly back to the house...daydreaming all the way about the toastiness that wood would bring. All of a sudden I hear a strange noise to my left, as I simultaneously felt my left foot rise and my right leg twist and shoot out from under me. It took me a split second to realize that I had fallen victim to a stampede. Yes ..a stampede...It seems as my dogs were playing and enjoying their time together, our young male Ziggy became distracted by our flock of heritage turkeys, and decided herding them to the barn would be a good time. Unfortunately for me, I was precisely between the barn door and the turkeys, and the 30 lb. Spanish black tom took out my right leg. Leaving me twisted and trampled by his remaining flockmates (12 much smaller Royal Palm hens). Oh well, I guess stampedes and snow happen in Michigan, and I will just have to take it in stride. Although admittedly my stride will be a bit shorter for the next few weeks while my ankle recovers. I will however have a bit more down time to enjoy that woodstove.
Antaya Acres Heritage Farm
Posted by Brett & Stephanie
@ 06:17 PM EST
With winter just around the corner, you would think things on the farm would be slowing down as the days continue to shorten. Not so here at Antaya Acres. Our last fall litter of piglets arrived the other day, and are doing grand: 11 beautiful tamworth/large black crosses. They pop around that pen like heated popcorn kernals. Their energy is contagious..thank the Lord, because without the joy boosts I get from the kids and the critters, I am not sure I could manage everything I have to do each day. With 4 mothers in the stalls, it seems like the clean up side of things is never ending right now. One of the nicest things about pasture pigging is that the animals spend so little time in the barn, not only is that a more natural beautiful life for the pigs, but the clean up is also a lot easier when everyone is out on the grass. This time of year, the nights are a little colder then I am comfortable with, so we move the mommas in the barn when they get ready to farrow, and we keep them there until I no longer have to worry about the little ones getting laid on, or freezing in the temperatures a late fall in Michigan can provide. We also bring the weanlings/growers into a nursery area we have set up in the barn. This is probably more than we need to do, as all of the breeds we raise are cold hardy, but its been so wet this fall I am a little extra cautious. I don't want a passel of babies coming down with pneumonia. Brett is working on the fencing today. I have had 6 ft. fence poles up around the front part of the yard for over a month. We had hired a young man to help Brett stretch the fence, but that fell through and he's been so busy the fence poles are still stark daily reminders of the work still left to be done. Getting that up will allow us to rotate the pigs to the new pasture area, so its essential that it get finished. I can't stretch it on my own, and Brett has been working on a large barn tear down in the northern part of the thumb. We were blessed this season by the generosity of a farmer and his family, who graciously allowed us to tear down their old 40'X80'X45' gambrel barn...for free no less! It has been a tremendous blessing, but also a ton of work, and that has kept Brett off the farm for almost 2 straight weeks. They are anxious to have the barn finished so that they can erect a new one in its place, so he has been logging in a lot of hours trying to get it done as quickly as possible. What an absolute gift it is though. That barn will enable us to erect range houses on all of the pastures and put up the addition on the existing barn. Thats a feat we never would have been able to accomplish until after spring litters otherwise. I don't always thank him for all of his hard work, but when he isn't here it certainly shows. Thank goodness his dad has been willing and available to help with the teardown, otherwise it wouldn't have been manageable. Many of you probably don't realize the amount of work that actually happens in the day to day operations of a farm, but somedays it can seem insurmountable. Because we are a pasture operation, for the most part the pigs and sheep are easy: food, water, poop patrol. The kids are easy too, as I have been blessed with the best kids EVER..ANYWHERE!! Although I do homeschool, so that takes time. Farm life is hard, sometimes heavy work, but its good honest work too. The rarest commodity on a farm is time. It takes thoughtful management to make it all balance out and work so that you are reaping the benefits that make this life so appealing to those of us who choose to live it. Its easy to spread yourself so thin taking care of the critters and the chores, that enjoying the time you have with your family can take a back seat. We have had to make some difficult decisions in that regard this year. We are cutting back on what we are doing with the dogs (Australian Shepherds), and that has been really hard for me to come to terms with. We had the Aussies before anything else here, and they have been such an intricate and joyful part of our farm and family, and they will continue to be - just on a smaller more manageable scale. I have rehomed some of our adult dogs to wonderful families, and while it causes the tears to flow..I know it is the right decision for them and for me. Our last litter of puppies just turned 14 weeks old, and I still have 4 of them available. I have been so busy with farmstuff, I'm afraid I haven't taken the time I usually do to get them marketed and in their forever families. I've got to move that to the front burner today. If anyone knows anyone who needs a first class working dog...let me know. I've been blessed with the most brilliant beautiful dogs you can find anywhere. I guess today I have really had God put it on my heart to remember why we are doing what we are, and to get through the work fast so we have time for the fun stuff. Well that is it for today - time to go work, so I can find some time to play with all of the blessings I have been given! Try to do the same.
Antaya Acres Heritage Farm
Posted by Brett & Stephanie
@ 09:15 AM EST
Our final litter of piglets for the season finally arrived last night. Congratulations to Junebug, our 18 month old registered Tamworth sow! 11 vigorous cross-bred youngsters were born in less than an hour and a half. She is an expert farrower if I have ever seen one. Two of the babies shot out so fast they hit the wall behind their mother with a thud...thankfully noone was hurt, and the wall did withstand the blast :) We sat and petted Juno in her farrowing stall until the last piglet was born and the placenta had passed, and to our joy all 11 youngsters were still healthy and hopping this morning. This is Juno's second litter. Her first litter she had 12 and raised 10. This time Juno was bred to our Large Black boar Obisdian (OB for short). What a gorgeous group of wigglers!! A nice way to end the farrowing season until we begin again in January. We are expecting 13 litters of purebred registered Large Black Hogs between January and May of 2010...and we will also be expecting 3 purebred Tamworth litters in the spring in addition to several litters of tamworth/large black and tamworth/old spot crosses.
Posted by Brett & Stephanie
@ 09:03 AM EST
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