What do farmers do in November?

More than you’d expect!

We planted about 40 lbs of garlic and shallots during the end of October and early November.  I just got some lily bulbs on clearance and need to prepare their area & get them in the ground this week.   The garden area still has drip irrigation tubing that must be removed for the winter, and that area still needs to be mowed.  Our hens are still laying eggs every day and still have to be moved.  CSA applications for next year are being processed and deposits will be arriving soon.

The most important cold-weather work on a farm, though, is looking over last year’s records and planning for the future.  We had a successful 2008 according to the criteria of our long-term plan.  I’m trying to decide which farm improvements merit immediate attention for 2009.

The idea of a big cold frame (or small unheated greenhouse, if you want to think of it that way) has a lot of appeal.  My seed-starting setup last year got the job done, but I was always out of room and I got really tired of hauling buckets of water up the stairs.  The cold-house would allow more room for the seedlings, would get them out of the house earlier in the spring, would be easier to water, and would allow me to start a few early tomato plants for top dollar tomatoes earlier in the spring.

We certainly need more cold storage space.  Last year, a lot of compromises were made with what got to go in the refrigerator and what didn’t.  A walk-in cooler would be ideal, but I don’t have even a ballpark idea of what they cost.  Two or three more refrigerators might get us by for another summer.

I am immensely happy already that we bought a tractor this fall.  The plan is definitely to buy some type of cultivating attachment for it, in addition to the disk, plow, and mower that we already have.  I am thrilled with the very idea of how much weeding time this will save.

Speaking of weeds and bugs, there is the issue of how much solar mulch, row cover, etc. to get.  I didn’t make good use of these things in 2008, partially because of the early weather problems, the fact that I didn’t HAVE any solar mulch, and because of time constraints.  It looks like grandma and grandpa might be around a little more in 2009, so hopefully I’ll have time to put row covers on and take them off when needed!

Another infrastructure-type improvement to the farm would be some fence mending.  Neither of us have any experience fixing woven wire fencing, but the raw materials are all here (well, maybe some fence pliers will be acquired.)  I am really interested in the potential fertility enhancements to my field that would be provided by a beef calf or two.  Not to mention the beef!

The seed catalogs are arriving by the day, too, reminding me of the purgatory of washing seed starting containers that awaits me soon, and of all the things I haven’t tried growing yet. Happy November!

California Prop 2

I first heard of Prop 2 from the local AM radio station this morning. (When I say “local”, I mean the one (only one?) in the county we live in.) It was during an ag-update, of which there are many on this station. It said that livestock producers were concerned about the passage of the proposition. Producers in the midwest see it as an opportunity — California’s production will obviously decrease because of proposition 2. Oh, sad, sad, day.

I took it upon myself to research this perilous new law. I was curious about what types of terrible regulations had been passed by those crazies on the west coast.

Mere seconds after typing “prop 2” into a search box, I found the Yes on Prop 2 page. Obligingly, they have the text of the proposed (now passed) law in a PDF. The summary reads thusly:

“The purpose of this Act is to prohibit the cruel confinement of farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs.”

Hm. That doesn’t sound that catastrophic, or even unreasonable. Well, maybe there’s some scary stuff hiding behind such a simple summary…

“25990. Prohibitions.– … a person shall not tether or confine any covered animal, on a farm, for all or the majority of any day, in a manner that prevents such animal from:
(a) Lying down, standing up, and fully extending his or her limbs; and
(b) Turning around freely.”

Well, that sounds awfully similar to the summary. And that’s it, other than some definitions and exceptions.

In contrast to the tone of the local radio station’s report, our farm would not be hampered by a law like this. The chickens we have now, even when they’re cooped up for the night, have enough freedom of motion that we wouldn’t need to change if Indiana passed the same law. As we grow, our intent is to give our animals as much freedom as we can (while still keeping them healthy and safe from predators) and to raise what our land can support; in short, we plan to grow sustainably.

I think it is terrible that this type of law is required. But, I think it is hopeful that things seem to be changing in a more positive direction.