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The Moccasin Telegraph

T.gif (911 bytes)This sign is at 10,000' on the crest of the Gallatin Rangehe phrase "Moccasin Telegraph" dates back to the frontier days, around the time the telegraph lines were being strung along the railroads. The standing joke was that news spread much faster via the person-to-person grapevine gossip channels, especially since the bison found the new telegraph poles made superb scratching posts and the lines were often down. Phone service is arguably somewhat more reliable these days, but even with just a "dumb" phone the grapevine functions just as well as ever.   So, from time to time (actually monthly, for a long time now) we'll pass along some things we think you might find interesting. The old frontier is dead, and we might not even be on the new frontier of the information age, but we're glad to report the Moccasin Telegraph is alive and well.


 

11/30/2017

Well, November has been quite variable!

Not even just the weather, although that's been notable.

This was back on the 7th, the first notable snowfall this fall! And, it was noteworthy...
Not just the accumulation, but it rained first, which resulted in the bottom layer being mostly ice. I regularly check the avalanche reports, and to some extent that's been a good thing, as it resulted in a solid base layer, well adhered.

Down here it was a bit of a pain, though, as even once the upper foot or so of snow had disappeared, we still had a layer of ice that made just walking from the house to the barn or "bakery" (our old meat plant, now commercial kitchen/oil processing facility!) all but hazardous. You about needed crampons, but at least I only fell down once, with no harm done. Well, other than spilling the cat food in hand, which was on it's way out to feed the new barn cat. But, that's no longer necessary, as it's disappeared. I think our two main cats, Abby and Punkin put the run on it. Territories... And, at least Abby and Punkin are regularly reducing the mouse population around here!

Although we got an inch of snow again recently, and perhaps more this weekend (although nothing significant, they think) it had basically cleared off. In fact some days almost felt like summer! And amazingly enough, it did get over 70 a time or two out in eastern Montana, but at least not here. We got over 60 a time or two, though.

At least it wasn't that warm when I took this photo, back on the 23rd. This was up along the north end of the Bridgers, looking west out over the Valley of Flowers over toward the Tobacco Roots. Great country...

Not just weather, though, business has also been interesting. Oil sales have been going well, not just restocking grocery stores and individual orders, but a surprising amount going toward pet use, which could expand dramatically.

Plus, we set a couple of records for sales at recent Farmers Markets. Gotta like that...

Plus we have some fresh meat in the freezers, and while we could probably think of at least something to complain about for November, that is useless, so won't bother...

Happy Thanksgiving!!

 

 

 
10/31/2017

Here it's the end of October, Halloween, and I was going to joke about it being the "last day of summer!". Except I see I already did that last month, and now there's no question about it. Yesterday was gorgeous, but now we're already getting snowflakes, and unless the weather man is wrong (NEVER...) it's going to turn completely ugly the next few days.

At least not quite as bad here in the Valley of Flowers as up north in our old haunts on the Hi-Line, where they're talking a foot of more of snow (down on the "flats", way more up in the mountains, and temps by the weekend down in the single digits. Tsk...

But at least I've just gotten done with "pre-winter" chores, and don't think I've forgotten any...

Just got the ponies home, and have their winter meals stacked in the barn. And now my back isn't even hurting anymore...!!!

I know, it's not that big of a load, of very good quality local grass hay.

So after I'd gotten it transferred into the barn, I swept off the trailer and left the "leftovers" outside for the local deer, which are in abundance lately.

And that's a photo my wife Kim got a few mornings back, just one of several back-yard deer, but one having a staredown with Punkin, one of our cats, who isn't intimidated by deer at all!

But then we haven't had elk in the yard, and I kinda wish we would, but...

These were just down the road a few days back. Only a small part of a herd of a hundred or so, and I suspect they're not all that happy with the weather forecast either!!

So we'll see...

It appears quite certain we're on the verge of winter, though... At least I got the tractor chains moved indoors, and God forbid, could plow the driveway if need be in coming days.

Unless the Weather Man is wrong...?!!! Let's hope...!!

 

 
9/30/2017

It's the last day of September, or is it the last day of summer, or both?

We've had noticeable rain lately, in fact some of the most in the State. And now, within minutes, it's going to start raining again. Although this afternoon into the night, we're supposed to get the most around, but then Monday and Tuesday it's north central Montana that's allegedly going to get ~6" of snow, with little to none down here in the Bozone!

That's OK, we already had a whiteout back on the 19th!

This photo doesn't exactly capture it, but the snow/ice/hail pellets in the air almost qualified as a whiteout! A couple inches of white stuff on the ground, that doesn't exactly fit most "normal" criteria. Definitely not snow, or hail, or not even "rain", just a combination that's very hard to define.

But then this was a neighborhood field of corn, back on 9/17.

That's still out there, unharvested, but at least we're supposedly going to get something less than a foot of snow in the next couple of days.

And there's major potato harvest going on here in the Valley of Flowers of late, but at least most of the wheat and barley are already in the bin. Plus of course camelina has been harvested some time back, although ironically we're about as low on oil as we've ever been, but that's due to remarkably good sales of late!

We'll get more bottled up here shortly, although perhaps not this afternoon...

At least we won't be shoveling snow!

But at least I've been stacking a minor amount of hay recently. Good to get that done, although the horses will likely still be out on pasture in the near future. They're loving that, and you can kinda see there's two slightly different batches of hay on the ancient Ford pickup, and so I'm supposed to see which they prefer.

The deer in the neighborhood don't seem to have a preference. That's not a minor committee!!

There's more deer around here than there's ever been...

Still, the "hunting bug" is settling into my psyche in a big way of late, but I'm more interested in elk. None of those in the yard lately!

But then I was recently asked where we mostly hunt elk. Again, it's mainly up, slightly south of Amnesia Lake!!

And again, where exactly is that...?

I can't exactly recall..

 

 

 
8/31/2017

And now, August is almost over also! And just like last month, it's hard to not whimper about the heat, and especially the smoke. Except September will be cooler, right...?

At least these deer were enjoying the shade in our back yard one afternoon, about mid-month. And, sticking an ancient camera through the blinds of our dining room window didn't even alarm them. I know, recurrent themes, but the deer are thriving in this neighborhood anymore. My horses tend to stick to the green grass along the tiny creek just north of here, but the deer seem to wander quite a bit more. Although I'm glad my horses can't jump fences like the deer do!

But then our son Cody won't be jumping fences with his new truck either. No, it's not brand new, but he got a very good deal, buying this directly from an individual who'd taken very good care of it. An older mechanic Cody consulted with agreed, and although it's ~ ten years old, has fairly low mileage and a great Ford diesel engine! Maybe even better than the vastly more ancient Ford diesel in the background. That's "my" truck, similarly bought from an individual, a neighbor from an associate of mine who's a retired wildlife biology professor. He'd been recommending I check out his neighbor's truck for some time. It's been OK, up until late last week when suddenly the rear U-joint went out.

I always say that school never lets out, and now I've learned how to remove a rear driveshaft from an old Ford, and perhaps even better, after calling numerous vehicle salvage operations around the State, got referred to an excellent operation nearby in Belgrade, Powertrain Plus, and amongst numerous phone calls today just got a call they have the driveline rebuilt!

That was simultaneous with another phone call, the second one today from local women with horses, who want to give them camelina meal as a supplement this coming winter.

It will be winter someday, right...?

But then this photo, from back at dawn a few mornings back doesn't really show the smoky skies, but it does show Cody's customization of his new truck. Having a painted bison skull up front, on a nice red pickup...!!!

At least he hasn't reported any wrecks from other drivers staring at his front end! Still, that makes this truck a "one of a kind"!

Gotta like that...

 

 
7/31/2017

Well, July is almost over. I'm wishing I could say the same thing about summer, but no way. Not to whimper, but I'm getting to be over the heat. At least we still don't have any fires in the neighborhood, although today the smoke has come in like crazy! In fact, with no warning I suddenly got a nosebleed while eating lunch. A minor one, but still, I haven't taken any hits to the nose lately, so I'm thinking it must be the smoke. Very strange...

At least this photo was back when the air was clear. The grass growth in our pasture might have set a record this year. I've joked about the grass being chest high, but in places it's actually chin (or even eye!) high. The critters (at least the ones that eat grass) are loving that. And again, we're commonly having deer in our yard.

This was looking out back one morning. No, it's not your typical manicured yard, but the deer don't care. They're loving eye-high grass!

So should my horses... This time of year we pasture them just north of here, and suddenly this afternoon I noticed all three of them were out. Thankfully I noticed that before they went on a tour of the neighborhood, raced over there, caught Buddy and brought them all "home". I'm not fixing fence in the 90's, and talking with a neighbor or two, we almost wonder if someone didn't open a gate over there...

I'll find out in the morning. It's not like computer problems, which are rampant today, but hey...

In some ways, I'd much rather deal with horses and fences. You don't have to call tech support for that! Just a hammer and staples, and wire & a stretcher. A fence stretcher! Not one you lay on...

 

 

 
6/30/2017

Happy New Year!

Well, not quite... Our farm corporation fiscal year ends today, so it's kind of a New Year tomorrow. And, we're doing a Farmer's Market tomorrow morning, which has been good for years, but now that we have Commercial Kitchen certification Kim has a lot more stuff there, and our sales are great as a rule! Can't think of a better way to start the New Year!

And, here it's late afternoon, and just saw a bunch of mule deer bucks walk by, and head out into the field just across the road. It's normal to see them first thing in the morning, but mid to late afternoon is kind of unusual. Still, the wildlife is thriving around here.

This was right in our back yard, at sunrise back on 6/24. Took this photo out our dining room window. This young buck and a likewise young doe had made themselves at home here. In fact, later that day I went out to the barn, and spooked them out of this lean-to.

They not only love the amazing plant growth, but you can't quite see our horse waterer just behind these plants, or the salt block just out of the photo.

The plant growth is amazing this year, and seems to be a couple of weeks ahead of normal. Far better than the disastrous drought conditions in northeast Montana, and sympathy is sent that way. Although, it's supposed to be pushing 100 degrees later next week even here. Not looking forward to that...

At least this is the only fire we've had on our property this year. Just burning some tree trimmings from last summer, and just after decent rain the night before. Had the trimmings under a tarp so they were dry, and with a little gasoline, they went up in short order. I definitely wouldn't do that in hundred degree temps with wind, though...

Not the best photo, but this buck was right out front this morning. That stuff is likely going to enhanced as wildlife habitat in the future, and so we'll have an official wildlife sanctuary right out front. We have tons of wildlife already, so... That will be Great!!

But first, time to get back to getting stuff ready for the Market tomorrow. That is Great also...!!!

Yep, it's a Happy New Year!!

 

 
5/29/2017

Well, May has been interesting as usual, a basically good month.

We haven't been able to train Milo, our barn cat, to drive tractor, but he enjoys soaking up the sun on the old '52 International. This photo was taken May 1, so the month was off to a good start. Milo also commonly sleeps in our "newer" '67 Versatile. Although, he wasn't in it in this following photo...

This was when we'd first gotten plowing, back on May 4. That was good, but then the "rainy season" hit. Farmers never complain about rain, although it kept us out of the field most of the rest of the month, until just recent days. Talking with other farmers, just this morning in our old neighborhood up on the Hi-Line, that's been a common situation around the State.

At least the grass is thriving! Took a little tour up on the Flying D Ranch back on the 21st.

The bison are loving that green grass also!

This solitary bull apparently doesn't even mind dandelions! I'm not crazy about them, although have been told they're quite nutritious. But now, I about better go get after some yard work. After some oil bottling projects...

See you next month. Have a good one...

 

 
4/30/2017

It's still springtime here in the Valley of Flowers, although there's actually some flowers that are blooming. Although not in this recent photo of the "backyard"!

Significantly greener than last month, although I should have taken a photo a few mornings back, when we had ~4" of snow! That rapidly melted, but along with notable rain just in the last few days, the rain gauge says...

And actually that's evaporated a bit, as of this morning. It was closer to 1.8" yesterday, but at least it's not raining yet today. Except farmers never complain about mud, right?!

Snow we can complain about, but rain... never. Well, not even if it's May (tomorrow) and we all but haven't been in the field yet, except my rule of thumb is that you don't plow if there's puddles in the driveway, and plowing if it's going to rain within hours is useless. Although soaking things with chemicals...

I'm just not into that, and speaking of healthy food, we had the last seasonal Winter Farmer's Market yesterday.

Very good turnout, and that's the "Dirt Farmers" playing in the background, which is beyond appropriate! Although many of the vendors are likewise, and for a former meat cutter and musician who still has all his fingers...

Anyway, most of the vendors gave produce to the Dirt Farmers, and as usual, the connections are good. In fact, some of the contacts from yesterday could be near invaluable!

 

 
3/31/2017

Ahh... Things have been going well!

And at least we're a day away from April Fools Day, although we're doing a Farmer's Market tomorrow morning, and are looking forward to that. Not just because of our normal sales, but as I touched on earlier, we'd applied for a long-overdue Commercial Kitchen certification, and were immediately approved!!

That is a big deal, and so now my wife will have some other items at the Market, particularly nice hot breakfast items. Plus we have a great location, right when you enter the old ballroom at the Emerson, and we may need a mat out front in case people are drooling!!

Aside from that, though, spring seems to be arriving early.

This photo was here in the "back yard" earlier in March. Little to no snow down here anymore, although in spite of what you'd think, mountain snowpack is "normal". But, although it's been mostly balmy the last couple of weeks, prior to that was wet (mainly snowmelt) but just in the last couple of days we got more rain than anywhere else in the state! The weather report from yesterday said Bozeman, up at MSU set the daily record with a half inch of rain. But... I was in town early yesterday, and we were getting a virtual downpour out here, and I know we got noticeably more than in town. Time to get a rain gauge out there!

Speaking of spring, though...

This was in the actual back yard a morning or two back. We've had birds like crazy in the neighborhood! Lots of eagles, hawks, ravens, cranes, and then pigeons, robins and a wide variety of smaller birds. This one was singing loudly. That's common. When I go out to feed horses & various other chores before it gets light, there's often birds calling out like crazy! I've commented that I often get a good vibe when I first step outside in the morning, and that's part of it.

It's not just birds, though...

This is just across the road out front, part of the farm that the deer are loving! We see them out there almost every morning, and it's not uncommon to have them here in the yard. And also, the elk have shown back up. Myself and others around the valley, who used to commonly see elk on a near-daily basis were wondering where they'd gone. But, a biologist called a couple of weeks back, after having just flown here on the west side of the Bridgers, and yes, she saw ~300, with a couple hundred of those basically here in the back yard. And now, I'm seeing them again regularly...

Gotta like that!

And then, this was the first rainbow of the year, just northwest of here yesterday morning! I'll take that as a good sign...

But then, besides massive bookwork (good progress on taxes, among other things!), our demand for camelina is thriving. Thankfully we now have a massively higher capacity seed cleaner, but the last couple of days I've resurrected the ancient (40's!) Vacaway cleaner, which I've joked might have been the best eighty dollars I ever spent. It still works, although prefer the big one, although that's an outdoor operation, so when it's raining in March...

This works, still... although I'll be glad to get the big one running (or at least vibrating!) again, but a few other projects loom first, so for the moment...

Functional antiques are good. Hopefully in April we'll at least move up into the 70's, though. Not counting computers, of course!! Although at least in my case, might not quite be up into the teens yet! Except for our great laser printer, and just printed a batch up recently (yesterday!) upgraded labels for my wife's line of granola's, among other things, and those will be going off to the State for approval, possibly Monday.

Not April Fools Day, though!!

 

 

 
3/1/2017

Whoa, I though I was only one month overdue, but it turns out it's two months?!

Well, it certainly hasn't been dull around here, and at the end of the recent months the schedule has overflowed, so...

But...

Just today, we crossed a major deadline, or (I'm lacking words...) made major progress, which has been in the works for years...

We finally got our application in to the Gallatin County Health and Human Serices department for a Commercial Kitchen certification for our on-location facility. Of course it's been certified in various levels since... way back in the 80's, but my normal line on this is "some people think farming is dull!".

Not me, however.

Although, this facility is not specifically farming related, unless you ignore that perhaps my best teacher ever, Van Shelhamer, not only taught me carpentry, but a spectrum of other things, back up in the Conrad Vo-Ag progrm in a previous life.

Still, he taught me how to build this facility up to multiple standards way back then, and it's been approved by numerous State and County agencies ever since...

And now, we expect that to continue...!!!

That is a goal that cannot be easily summarized, although it's already made various internet facets, which I don't normally post on. Won't go there...

No, I far prefer reality, which in this case makes one possibly turn cartwheels!!!

Yes, we've just turned another milestone, and although I thought about taking photos in the GCCHD office this afternoon...

No, I'd have probably been arrested!!

Better to toe the line, which has worked for... (wow!), is it a lifetime...? Or in this specific case, at least going on 35 years...

 
1/1/2017

Happy New Year!!

I know, I'm late again, but better late than never right??

At least this photo was back in early December, before winter hit.

Unlike now, although it was -26 a couple of weeks back, on a Saturday morning when we bailed on the Winter Farmers Market. Except we've heard since, a couple of other vendors had record sales that day! Amazing...

But... we're going sub-zero again this week, although unless the weather man is wrong (impossible!!!) it's supposed to be a little warmer Saturday, for the next market.

Except here's what it looks like today, and the ancient '52 won't start. Have checked out batteries, and connections, and even wove the magic wand, not to mention just had a cat sit down on my desk, but I'm not going to take a hammer to that tractor today!!

Still, 2017 has been kinda OK so far...

Happy New Year!!

 

 

 
11/1/2016

Whoa... a day late!

That hasn't happened very often over the years (or decades!). But it did this time. Just got back later yesterday from a venture up north, to Great Falls. Go ahead and snort (not whiskey, though...), but I don't have a laptop, although the wife's just croaked. Was technology jinxed in October...?

Anyway, given the locations I wouldn't have been able to use a laptop to update the Telegraph anyway. Yesterday was full of surprises, and I think I'm almost over it. Really glad to be back in the Bozone!

So although October wasn't particularly a technology month for me, at least I got some important things done that haven't changed since... Wow, for a long time!

Got some good hay laid in, or rather stacked in the barn, for the ponies. Not too bad, but still a bit of a workout! They're enjoying it, though. Not to mention a bit of organic barley in the evenings.

And, although we're a bit late for various reasons, son Cody and I are finally getting around to going hunting! In fact he headed out this afternoon, so we'll see... Even though we have experienced horses, if he gets an elk in this spot, kinda south of Amnesia Lake (!) we'll likely be backpacking it out. Tempted to say it makes my legs and back hurt just thinking about it, but no, not really. Haven't hardly been to the gym, although stacking heavy hay bales by hand might count!

Hope I get to find out. If not I might take an overnight backpack trip up here in the back yard, so we'll see. Wish luck!!

Thanks...

 

 
9/30/2016

And now it's almost October?!

Not esactly hunting season (except for archery, and some birds) but was just out the door and someone was shooting guns regularly outside, over on the State land. I used to do that myself, mainly up in our old Hi-Line haunts, which is part of the reason I'm kinda deaf now.

What??? Would you repeat that?? Nah, it wasn't just gunfire, but too much electric guitar and machinery operation. Which I thought I might be doing the latter of again today, but it's looking like tomorrow instead.

But at least I don't think we're going hunting tomorrow. Although just went and checked the horses, so once we get some shoes nailed on, might be going back up in elk country...

Except haven't been seeing the elk here in some time. And not just me, others aren't also, although they've been hearing some bugling, at least...

At least we've been seeing tons of deer in the neighborhood of late, and even have them in the yard regularly at daylight.

That was just barely at daylight a couple of mornings ago, so not the best photo...

This one got lightened a bit...

 

 
8/31/2016

What, it's almost September??
At least our Farmers Markets have been going very well!

And this was the Car Show on Main Street, always good...

And, as usual anymore we have tons of deer in the neighborhood...

 

 

 
7/31/2016

Be careful out there!

Don't throw any cigarettes out the window...

We have a Red Flag Warning for fire danger, calling for extreme fire danger.

Stepping outside, I'm not surprised. 96 degrees, very low humidity, and wind. Even first thing this morning, stepping outside it seemed surprisingly hazy over the Bridger mountains just east of here. In fact I was concerned there might be a fire up there, but just checking the INCIWEB site, it appears the only local fire is still the Blue Lake one south of Ennis.

So, although we're kinda short on photos for July, unfortunately mostly for the local Farmers Markets, which have been great lately!! In fact we've been having record sales there lately. Kim was up a little after 2:30 AM yesterday, baking, and she's consistently been selling out lately. At least yesterday she had one rhubarb tart left, which I claimed for breakfast this morning. That and a piece of bacon, and then airing up ancient car tires, checking horses, and chopping knapweed. I could go on about that for hours, but no, we've been in contact with the county weed board, neighbors and others, and we'll get it done. Safely, without using chemicals where you're not supposed to graze it for 18 months afterward, and if you do graze it and put the manure on your garden, it'll be history!!

At least I also got this photo this morning, although it's kinda minimal. We've had literally tons of deer in the neighborhood lately, including lots of big bucks, both whitetails and muleys! It's not just a field we had of camelina last year, interseeded with clover. There's a great stand of clover there this year, but the deer seem thrilled with all kinds of other forage around the neighborhood. And it's not just here, I've been talking with other folks further north, and they're seeing the same thing.

Although none of us are seeing elk lately. They've clearly moved up on the mountain, and hopefully are enjoying the shade. I need to do that myself...

 

 
6/30/2016

Happy New Year!

At least if (part of) your fiscal year ends today. For our ancient farm corporation, that's the case!
And, it's looking like some good developments are in the works...

For June, though, I don't have a lot of good farming photos. At least this one is way better!

This was from a brief outing Cody and I took earlier. He fished (successfully!) and I basically hiked around. Again, this was kinda out there south of Amnesia Lake, although this photo was from up on top for Fort Rock, nearby to where Lewis & Clark passed through a bit over 200 years ago!
To some degree, when you're out there, it almost feels like yesterday!

At least in their journals, as I recall, they don't mention a lot about thunderstorms and lightning. We've had that in a major way lately, in fact we got struck last Friday. Tripped all our breakers and ground fault outlets, but at least we got them re-set without much trouble. Except for our internet access... I re-booted our router and network repeatedly, and we thought our wireless antenna was probably fried, but it turned out to just be a minor junction box connecting the antenna to the router. I'd joke about magic wands, but it was actually simpler than that.

Except last night... gads... more of the same. Except we didn't have a direct strike that time. Still, it freaks out the animals to a large degree, which majorly disrupts sleep, but hey...

Farmers never complain about rain, right? Snow, we can complain about, but rain...

Never!!! Even if it's only a bit over a tenth of an inch, with major lightning and thunder... At least no direct strikes. Not right here, anyway... Unlike last time. And we know of someone down the road who had two cattle killed in a previous storm this year. At least my horses are OK...

 

 
4/30/2016

Spring has definitely sprung here in the Valley of Flowers! At least we lucked out and got just shy of an inch of rain in recent days. I've gotten our pre-plant plowing done, and am bartering for organic barley seed (a win/win!) and will be getting that in the ground in the next few days. Plus we have a great stand of clover growing that we'd interseeded with camelina last year, so we're getting a major nitrogen boost out of the air, basically for free!

Plus the grass has greened up amazingly here of late. We made a trip up north early in the month, regrettably for a memorial service for my wife's mother in Conrad. At least that went very well, but from Great Falls north it was kinda dry. Even then, it was green here...

Early in the spring, we occasionally let our ponies out in the "yard", and I call them Lawn Mowers. At least they'll be going out in much bigger pasture in coming days, after I finish seeding and fix some fence!

So we haven't done much in the way of recreating of late, but did at least take a hike up in the Horseshoe Hills early in the month, before it even started greening up here.

That's an ancient homestead barn, with unfortunately a dead cow out front! Apparently had a calving mishap...

At least this is a better view, and now it's green!

Gotta like that, and with the recent rain the grass is thriving. Should stay that way for at least the next two months, right...?

 

 
3/31/2016

So is March Madness about over? Actually, it hasn't been too bad, just busy as usual.

That's good, though, besides bookwork, regularly pressing camelina. Again, we're going through the meal like crazy! And the oil...

But at least the weather's been highly variable. Almost needed sunscreen a couple of days. The neighborhood old-timers have told me the snow used to be up to the top of the fenceposts! That's absolutely not the case anymore, but at least it has been white a few mornings, and it is kinda muddy out there. Farmers like that...!

Plus we've had an abundance of wildlife in the neighborhood of late. Deer, elk, cranes, geese, and FWP even shot a mountain lion just north of Belgrade recently. Some of the Women of the Dirt had seen it prior...

That photo is just a small fraction of the elk around here lately, but they're mostly smart enough to stay out of photo range. That photo is arguably the best one I've gotten, though... That was Easter morning. They must have known it was a holiday, as they didn't even care about me being within range!

So, we'll be farming one of these days. but it's still snowing out there at the moment! Farmers in Montana never complain about rain, and although we can complain about snow, I'm not! Like it...

 

 
2/29/2016

Happy Leap Year!!

Glad to have an extra day this month! Although it's feeling more like April than February...

Not the best photo, but you can see the snow has melted, and things are turning green. Ordinarily if winter wheat started greening up in February, that was alarming. Because if we get another sub-zero cold snap, it will "winter kill". Although I've been talking with numerous people about that lately, and everyone thinks the odds of that are fairly low this year.

This photo was just yesterday, and you can see the snow in our back yard, off the west slope of the Bridgers is all but gone. What you can't see is there's a decent herd of elk there at the base of the mountains!

But then you can see this one! Although there were significantly other deer in our driveway a few mornings back. They love the camelina I've spilled while cleaning and pressing seed of late. So we have high Omega-3 wildlife in the neighborhood!

At least it snowed (and rained) a little bit last night! I don't think I'm going backcountry skiing this afternoon, though...

Nope, an early lunch, then running some minor errands in town, and then probably cleaning more camelina seed. But when farming in February is fun...!!!

 

 
12/31/15

Happy New Year!!

Well, not quite... We've still got about six hours in '15.

But, it's been quite a year, which is mostly good! Although it's been kinda wintry lately, but nothing like it was years ago, when old-timers told me the snow was regularly up to the top of of the fenceposts!

At least we have the '52 IH chained up, which has been somewhat of a rarity in recent years. At least we haven't had to fire up some of the other functional antiques lately!

And also, thankfully, haven't had to haul grain lately with this family heirloom truck...

So that's all good, and our prospects for '16 remain optimistic! Somewhat of a rarity in farming these days, except even in the local Comical today there was an article about how Omega3 supplements are critical, and that's a large part of what we're doing...

So here's the sunset for 2015, and we're looking forward to '16!!

Again, Happy New Year!

 

 
11/30/15

Good grief, actually missed putting up a Telegraph last month. Literally the first time since back in the previous century!!

Partly because we've just been too busy, and also somewhat short of photos. Unusual, the latter part anyway...

At least just took this photo this past Saturday, at a first-time Farmers Market at the Bozeman Fairgrounds during the Holiday season. That was a great Market, in fact we set a personal record for sales!

Aside from that (and numerous other markets!) we've at least been attempting to get ready for winter, although I'm not even slightly into the recent sub-zero temps.

At least we're stocked on firewood, with a significantly bigger pile just out of sight, to the left of the garage door. Gotta like sitting by the fire...

So again, we're kinda short on photos, which is unusual, and this one was from last month!

At least Cody and I backpacked two speed goats out of... well, kinda south of Amnesia Lake!!!

Great alfalfa-fed ones, plus now our freezers are all but overflowing! Antelope, bison, elk, deer, pork and lamb and...!! That might be it. Well, except for local produce, Kim's baked goods, and... that might actually be it. So we might even be ready for winter, except for adjusting to the temps!

 

 
9/29/15

What, the Moccasin Telegraph is up a day early?!! Mainly because I gotta go to Billings and back tomorrow, doing another demo at Lucky's Market! They're a great outlet for our camelina oil.

But then it's been a small world as usual here today. In fact a whole group of us could have easier met here today, and exchanged organic barley, winter wheat, peas, camelina meal, and...

That would have theoritically (in fact, actually!) fit with the "schedule"!

At least today we weren't unloading "new" commercial" baking equipment.

Unlike last week, but that almost pales in comparison to figruging out how to convert a three-phase commercial oven to single phase.

Gads, I could go on for hours about this, but Kim might have made a major breakthrough today. We've talked with connections... well, maybe not worldwide. But one in California today said to have our electrician talk with him, and he'd explain how to do this.

Simply!!!!! For NO dollars!!! We thought that might be do-able, but now we know...

Aside from that sort of thing, we didn't do a whole lot of recreating in September. Here's a photo from an afternoon drive here in the Gallatin, though, up along Rocky Mountain Road.

And then just today, not even considering numerous invaluable connections, selling locally produced, local agricultural products, here's a photo of possibly the only incident I know of where someone hauled organically produced winter wheat in a Ford Explorer!

Almost laughable, but when you're getting ~$9.00 a bushel, versus ~$3.00 hauling it to the elevator...!!

Plus they don't take Explorers there....

 

 

 
8/31/2015

What, the "dog days" of summer are almost over?

Let's hope so. We're tired of the heat, but the smoke... has been off the scale lately, although not as bad here in the "Valley of Flowers" as numerous other places. Plus we only have one fire going at the moment, although wait, there's still remnants of another significant one still kinda going...

In fact here's a (not very good) photo of that second one, still smoking yesterday...

Cloudy skies are seldom, if never, good for photography. Plus it was actually very slightly drizzling rain in this one. Way more than welcome!!!

Still, all those hills in the background burned during that fire, not quite 9000 acres worth, but thankfully it stayed west of the Missouri River. Had it crossed, up into (and potentially far beyond) where we took this photo from... Gads...

Our son owns property not far north of here, and we're quite familiar with the Horseshoe Hills. Lots of interesting history up there... We're glad it didn't get a whole new chapter this month!

Disregarding the smoke, the Farmer's Markets have been good, which takes up a lot of our time, this time of year.

Those two new clear display cases up front make a remarkable difference in our sales! In fact Kim's baked good regularly sell out anymore, but even other vendors we know report record sales of late.

Gotta like that...!!

Oddly enough, we still haven't harvested our camelina this year. In fact, took a walk out there this morning, and although it's ripening nicely, some of it's still kinda green. That's beyond strange, but at least it's not just us; virtually everyone else growing it is having that experience this year, to my knowledge...

Oh, well, at least the clover we interseed is thriving, likely due to all these late season rains we've had, so we're getting a major nitrogen boost out of the air, all but for free!! Beats the heck out of writing big checks to the fertilizer companies... Plus of course weed competition, and right after the camelina (finally!!) matures we're going to get a killing frost, which will take care of the somewhat unusual amount of weeds we do have, and then it'll be harvest time, finally! Ordinally camelina all but completely suppresses other plant growth, but with the dry start, and then a belated "rainy" season, just prior to the inferno...

It's been a very strange year...

At least as usual, it hasn't been dull! Among other August projects, our son Cody has been rolling on a yurt he'll be building on property up by that prior fire photo. And speaking of fire, there's even a slight bit of surplus firewood in this trailer load of logs, although it's mostly going to be a supporting frame for the yurt.

We've hauled plenty of big loads on that 24' flatbed gooseneck trailer, but this one set a record for length! It worked, though...

So again, hopefully the "dog days" are about over, the smoke has largely cleared (Yay!!), and the temps out there are tolerable.

Time to go bottle oil, and bag up seed and meal, and... actually, that might about take care of today's list, which even prior to lunch was quite striking, but we're not going there...

 

 
7/31/2015

Well, July has been a good month around here.

For one thing, we actually took a "vacation", which had become an utter fantasy in recent years!

Except it was also a business trip, up to our old haunts on the Hi-Line, but then through Glacier Park. Way overdue.

The above photo is of the Salamander Glacier, up by Many Glacier, where I spent significant parts of my childhood. The only kinda alarming thing is that the Salamander's stomach appears empty these days. In fact they're still saying all the glaciers might be gone in ten years or so, except the weather man is never right anymore, which I hope continues to be the case!!

So this photo was part of what made this vacation a business trip! That's a field of camelina, up in our old haunts under the Rimrocks west of Kevin. What is further amazing is that we barely missed two significant fires, one of them right in this neighborhood and the other one shut things down on the east side of Glacier, literally hours after we passed through there.

Luck of the Irish??

Maybe so. At least the following view hasn't changed from my childhood (not to mention LONG before that!), in the East Glacier Lodge.

It's absolutely amazing they built that place going on 100 years ago!

People got things done back then also, not to mention thousands of years prior...

 

 
6/30/2015

It's the end of June, except the temperatures have felt more like July or August the last couple of days, pushing (or exceeding, in places) 100 degrees. At least the grass is still green, so it's definitely still June.

I'm also thrilled about the condition of our camelina! I was concerned, but just in the last few days it's exploded in growth, canopied, is blooming and forming seed pods.

The above photo was a close-up, just this morning. Backing off for the larger view...

Gotta like that...!!

It's also haying season, although the old timers said you weren't supposed to cut hay until after the 4th of July. But, given the weather. now is good...

One thing I'm shocked at is the amount of hay leftover from last year, that never sold!

There's lots of stacks of last year's hay, like the photo above. That one is a neighboring subdivision, and the stuff to the right is this year's. Here's a better photo of this years...

At least earlier in June, we did manage to get out and do a bit of exploring. Another thing I'm amazed at is some of the old homesteads, and how isolated they are. My ancestors (on my Mother's side) homesteaded up in northern Montana back in the teens, but they weren't nearly this isolated.

That one was at least a two-day horseback or wagon ride just to Bozeman. Clearly, when the residents hit town they stocked up, likely for months. Gads... tough doesn't even come close!!

 

 
5/31/2015

Good Grief, May is over?!!

That's OK, as things have been fairly favorable lately.

Things are amazingly green here in the Valley of Flowers, but some think Mother Nature doesn't have a sense of humor!

That was looking up Spanish Creek, about a week ago when I was out there for a road cleanup project at the mouth of the Gallatin Canyon. It's just as green everywhere in these parts, though.

Reinforced that opinion the last few days, as took a "day trip" to Billings yesterday for another demo at Lucky's Market. They're a great outlet for our camelina oil.

But then went to Helena and back on Tuesday, so we've actually been on the road a bit lately.

Thankfully not all on this!!

Although that's been fun also! There's our son Cody and his Mom Kim on his '71 Honda, which he's out on again right now!

Riding one of those over passes in Glacier Park could cause flashbacks for me, but you can do a lot worse...!!

But then we've been having other flashbacks in recent days, pressing camelina oil.

Except that photo was of something "new", a recent herd of antelope that were thrilled with the recent clover crop in our camelina stubble here on the Rockpile, but less so anymore, that it's been sprayed with chemicals.

Not by me...

 

 
4/30/2015

Here it is, the end of April, and just finished mowing the lawn! That's record early...

At the Winter Farmers Market, though, we often joked that March and April had gotten switched around this year. March was shockingly warm and dry, but at least in April we've gotten at least slightly noteworthy amounts of snow and rain of late.

So, even though yard work is not my thing, I thought I'd be farming before now, and was ready to roll early on in April. In fact last year I finished seeding camelina record early, April 12. My usual "rule of thumb" was I liked to be rolling by about April 10 (although many years it was more like the 20th), and be through seeding by May 10 or thereabouts. Can probably still do that...

Although, actually made an overdue trip to the dump this morning, out by Logan. Kind of an interesting tour of the Valley of Flowers, with literally no one in the fields plowing (one exception, right at the end, tearing up some stuff that used to be organic, but not anymore, tsk...). Did see three farmers spraying, with those enormous $300,000 sprayers. Anymore, when I get a whiff of that herbicide, it all but knocks me down. I got sensitized to that years ago, back when I was still using it. We've been chemical free for ten years now, but still, the slightest whiff of that and my body starts screaming...

But anyway, I'll get plowing tomorrow, and then seeding camelina. Our camelina stubble from last year has a reasonable stand of clover going. We interseed clover, not only for weed competition, but to get a substantial nitrogen boost, out of the air, basically for free!!

Beats writing big checks for fertilizer and chemicals...

But I'll quit ranting on about that, although briefly, I'm more into this organic model all the time. You are what you eat...

On that note, this was the neighborhood elk herd, back on 4/7. And then...

Not a very good photo, but a few mornings later, on 4/12 we had nineteen antelope right out front here! Never used to have antelope here in Springhill, although there's been a few in recent years, and that seems to be increasing. Although, I think we'll still put in for antelope permits over by... well, kinda north of Amnesia Lake!!

We've recently learned of a grant-funded project at MSU, to increase Omega-3's in the diet on Indian Reservations. Generally speaking, those are not common anymore, which results in all kinds of health problems. Doctors/hunting partners I know who've done part-time exchanges, basically volunteering on the Reservations have concurred on this for some time. Diabetes and other issues are rampant on the Reservations. Except, the initial research from MSU indicates that people who eat wild meat, naturally high in Omega-3's, among other things, have way better health than those who don't!! So again, to large extent, you are what you eat. And if you do it with respect, and are part of the "Matrix"...

So again, I was pretty much ready to roll back in early April, except Mother Nature decided to mess with the weather man again, and we got a major surprise back on the 15th. The forecast was for an inch or two at most, but we got about a foot of very heavy, wet snow as you can see above. And there was sixteen inches by Sypes Canyon, just south of here, and fourteen in Bozeman, and...

At least an inch of moisture, and then we got another half inch a few days back, and perhaps luckily only a few hundredths last night, when they thought we might have violent thunderstorms and hail, so...

So we'll see what May brings. At least we have neighbors in our old haunts up north growing camelina this year, although it's been raining (and snowing) more here of late. Oh, well... some people think farming is dull!!

 

 

 
3/31/2015

Good grief, it's the end of March already?!

Except it feels more like June (or maybe even July) out there. Have been running numerous errands all around the Valley of Flowers today, and when I left Bozeman late this afternoon it was 75 degrees! And... it's been over 80 out in eastern Montana a few times already, and I saw 70's back in late January up on the Hi-Line and...

We discuss this regularly with lots of people at the Farmers Markets, among other places, and everyone is kinda alarmed.

Although that photo above was a demo we did at Lucky's Market over in Billings, earlier in the month. They're a great outlet for our camelina oil.

Driving over there and back wasn't that bad that weekend, although there was already significant dust in the air between Laurel and Billings. Except that was dramatically worse this past weekend, not to mention a couple of significant fires!

I even hauled a load of barley over to north of Livingston last Saturday, and that was borderline frightening on several levels. Not only the wind, but some more of the boards on our old flatbed trailer need replacing, and the old '52 International almost broke through at times!

Got 'er done, though, and the price is so much better than hauling semi-loads to the elevator (not to mention no discounts!) that I'll still keep doing that.

So we also hauled an extremely unique load this past weekend, and actually have it all indoors now. Almost completely by hand, except for again, the '52!!

This one was mostly camelina, extremely clean seed grade, organically certified... Plus some oats, wheat and barley. A one of a kind situation, which I'm not going into the details of here, since it involves a good friend whose situation makes ours look... simple.

But at least we have functional antiques here at the working museum, and perhaps one of the best is this ancient seed cleaner, cleaning organically produced barley in this photo!

We also have a much higher capacity one now, from the old Cargill elevator up in Conrad, but somehow this even more ancient one does a better job, although I'm still in school about operating the big one. School never lets out, right?!

At least I did manage to take a day "off", and went for a hike up in the north Bridgers a couple of weeks ago.

That's a State section I'm standing in, and a private one to the right of the fence.

You tell me which is "better managed". Not a bit of elk or deer sign on the State land, and I'd thought about hunting (or at least taking an overnight backpack trip) up on isolated parcels of public land up toward my back, looking the other direction, but have kinda cooled on that idea. A very remarkable person (and steady customer) we knew used to outfit up there, and did quite well.

I'm sticking with our "old" haunts up by Amnesia Lake, though..

 

 
2/28/2015

Alas, we're pathetically short on photos (and even news) for February. Perhaps because it's a shorter month than normal, right?

This photo is of the local elk herd (at least some of them), back when it was still "springtime", earlier in the month.

It's strange, basically all the elk and deer are down on the flats anymore. I used to glass those open, southwest facing slopes every day during the winter, and almost always would see wild game. It was the "winter range".

That's changed, it seems. And yes, even now that everything's white again, they're still down here. Even though those southwest facing slopes clear off first, it doesn't seem to matter. Some say the forage quality is better down here on the flats, but there has to be more to it than that. Some blame predation, but I have a little trouble with that also. Yes, there's the occasional wolf pass through, but we don't have a resident pack in this neighborhood. Some say it's mountain lions, but in all my years hiking around in the Bridgers, I've only seen a lion twice! And besides, if their prey base is down on the flats, you'd think they would be also, and we'd see them at times (or at least remains of their kills), but no...

So, given the lack of snow, I haven't even been backcountry skiing yet. Is "farming in February" a borderline disorder?

Nah... We made good use of the nice weather.

This photo was just prior to filling a load of tote bags with organically produced barley, for delivery out by Three Forks. For a win/win price with no discounts!! Beats the heck out of hauling it to the elevator...

Of course we don't do that with our camelina either. We're also utilizing nylon tote bags for this, as well as fully functional antiques to auger camelina into the hopper above our oil press. Ordinarily we auger it out of the truck, but this time of year we're ordinarily only pressing a couple of totes at a time. We have plenty of oil on hand, but are regularly out of the meal anymore, the byproduct after we cold-press the oil. We're getting great demand for that as an animal supplement, primarily chickens. But then also getting substantial and regular orders for the oil also.

So when farming in February is fun, that's good!!

 

 

 
1/31/2015

It's springtime already!!

Well, maybe not now, but it felt that way ealier this week. I made a quick trip to the Hi-Line and back on Monday, and our car thermometer said it was 70 in Ulm! And, it also apparently hit or slightly exceeded that in Rapelje and another spot or two.

That's incredible for January, and the grass is even greening up here. We're still in the banana belt, although it's resembling winter again in our old haunts up north, at least at the moment.

Still, it's incredible how warm it's been, and the effect on the "snowpack". I didn't even make it skiing in January, although our son Cody made it up to Bridger Bowl once. I'm told the snow up there isn't even remotely the old "Cold Smoke" anymore, by the same people who attempted to go cross-country skiing up Spanish Creek yesterday, and basically found it devoid of snow!

Much like the southwest facing slopes here on the west side of the Bridgers, which have perhaps always been winter range for wildlife. Except they're not up there anymore! The elk and deer are basically all down here on the flats, in spite of being shot by road hunters with regularity of late. You'd think they'd go back up on the mountain, but no...

Anyway, we've taken advantage of springtime so far, mainly pressing camelina oil of late.

Go ahead and laugh, but we have yet to find a more efficient power source for running our oil press than the '67 Massey above. And this is something we've investigated to considerable degree, for let's see... ten years now.

Although the demand for the oil, an outstanding Omega-3 supplement has been good, anymore it's mainly the meal, the byproduct after we cold-press the oil that we're continually running short on. It's an exceptional animal supplement, primarily chickens, but also a great natural fertilizer. We even re-stocked Planet Natural a few days back, somewhat unusual for January! Except wait, it's spring, right...?

It still felt that way yesterday, when we were setting up for cleaning barley in the photo above. This is with the high-capacity seed cleaner we got a few years back, when relatives tore down the old Cargill elevator in Conrad.

This amazing device was patented back in 1924, only ~90 years ago!! Still works fine...

So anyway, when farming in January is fun, you can do a lot worse! Hopefully February will be fun also...

 

 

 
12/31/2014

Happy New Year!

Well, not quite... Plus we're still enjoying 2014, but '15 should be interesting also.

Our Christmas booth at the Mall in the photo above certainly was, and I'm told I even wound up on TV! Not available on the web, unfortunately, but at least I think I shaved that morning!

We only did that booth three days, as the lefse sold outrageously. Norwegian Holiday treats, plus of course the camelina, both of which can be sold by Irish/Dutch farmers!

Montanans, anymore, thank God!

There's Kim actually cooking lefse, at the Park County Christmas Fair over in Livingston. That was also a very good event this year, with exceptional turnout.

That's partly because the roads weren't frightening that weekend. Good thing, as we've completely sworn off going over Bozeman Pass in those conditions.

We're so glad that event wasn't today, as we hit -20F at bedtime last night. Except now we're back in the Banana Belt, although I'm still not firing up the '52 IH today, as the driveway's not all that bad. At least partly because I plowed it back on Christmas, after chaining up, again somewhat of a rarity in recent years.

It makes worlds of difference, though, particularly when you have a layer of solid ice underneath, and we're still very thankful we wound up with that set of chains. As I've mentioned before, years ago we met the guy up in Cut Bank, whose Dad bought that tractor new at Torgerson's back in '52!

He still had the chains, not to mention played bass, and we should have written a song about that.

Still perhaps not capable of that, but the one that's often stuck in my head lately is about "takin' care of business, every day!".

You can do a lot worse...

Our son Cody even made it up to Bridger Bowl, for a "Cold Smoke" powder day back at Christmas! This photo was from the first cross-country ski tour I've taken in a while, right here on the Rockpile, just before we went sub-zero.

Yes, it's a functional museum around here, but we don't still mow with one of those!

All the same, we feel/understand the connection. Except back then, the snow was regularly up to the top of the fenceposts, I'm told.

So farming wasn't dull, even back then!

We fully expect that to continue. Forever, one hopes...

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 
11/30/2014

BRRR!!!!

Seventeen below here this morning! That's notably colder than what the weather man thought might happen, and more snow to boot, but I fully understand. Complaining about weather here in the Valley of Flowers is utterly useless!

At least there's no wind, and even not that much anymore in our old haunts by the Rimrocks northeast of Cut Bank, unless the weather reports about that are wrong again also!!

The above photo was from another "surprise", back before Thanksgiving. Between six and eight inches of extremely wet, heavy snow, which almost unbelievably nearly all melted within a day or two! So I wouldn't have even had to fire up the recently repaired '52 IH tractor above, to plow the driveway. After recently fixing an engine knock with a hammer, though, that was almost fun...!

All the same, I'm very glad to not be firing up any of the three '52s today!

But unless the Weather Man is wrong again (impossible!!), we're supposed to be back in the Banana Belt by even tomorrow, which is good, as we're heading over to Livingston next weekend for the Park Country Christmas Fair. We normally have a quite good booth there, although we've completely sworn off going over Bozeman Pass when roads are icy, as we totaled our Explorer doing that years ago on our way over for the Fair.

Barring having to chain up, that's a quite good event, although we're torn, and would also like to head up to Great Falls for the Montana Organic Association event next weekend..

At least we don't have to drive the '52s to either of those!! Or even slower; pack and ride horses. Still, you can do worse...

This was back in early November, when the first snow had just arrived. In fact we hiked quite a ways above this photo, to retrieve an elk Cody had gotten the day before, and snow wasn't much above ankle deep. Unlike now, the avalanche danger was zilch, and the lubricant qualities were oustanding, when you're abandoned the travois he used to get it down that far, are backpacking about half, and dragging/sliding the other pieces down to where horses can get to.

Anyway, you can kinda see why we call this place "Paradise".

Definitely "Thanksgiving"...!

 

 

 
10/31/2014

Happy Halloween!

No trick or treaters as yet, but that's normal here on the Rockpile. Thankfully no zombies either, although I was shocked to see a couple in town today! At least we probably do have some ghosts around, in fact they're regular visitors here. And, have perhaps been feeling a connection to some of their times of late.

Actually made it out for a hike/hunt on the 28th, up into old haunts here in the backyard. This is looking north off a ridge, down into Springhill Community. Somehow, it's not surprising this was a thriving community clear back in the mid-1860's!

Even then, the reliable water flow powered a couple of grain mills, cut wood, plus a brewery and years ago I had permission on property, and saw the old Madame Moos cabin, reportedly a popular stop for some, back in the day. Thankfully none of those anymore!!

But then also had more recent flashbacks today, as we handled a buffalo.

We used to skin and quarter hundreds (actually thousands) of those. Anymore we only do a handful, but Molly is still thrilled!

Great grass this year, and that one is going to rate somewhere far beyond Prime, or Choice.

Superior, or Off the Scale?

October was a full month as usual, but among other things our son Cody lucked out with a couple loads of high-quality camelina "straw" bales. We need to come up with a different word for that also, as they only resemble straw. They're basically indestructible, and he's going to be building a "straw" bale house out of them. Although it will more resemble an adobe house, off the grid, and yes, basically indestructible.

Plus these are nice, tight, lightweight, super insulative bales, a little better quality than we get out of our fantastic $10 baler! Nah, these are from over by Harrison, from camelina grown by one of our main clients for the camelina meal, the byproduct after we cold-press the oil. It's a great animal supplement, and Glenn Visser not only farms, owns the store in Harrison, but also has a feed mill and goes through a fair bit of camelina meal in chicken feed. Chickens thrive on it, which results in high Omega-3 eggs, which humans also thrive on...

So we should do OK with any zombies that might show up tonight. Actually not concerned about that...

Happy Halloween!!

 

 

 
9/30/2014

Yay!

We're caught up farming. Well, field work anyway; seed cleaning, oil pressing, and getting back in Marketing Mode looms, although not today. Still drizzling out there...

Luck of the Irish came through yet again, as we had all but no machinery breakdowns this summer. That's unheard of, particularly with haying! Except today, our wireless internet is out, apparently modem/router problems. Unfortunately, you can't fix that with a hammer, and hopefully support from Blackfoot shows up today, or the Telegraph might be late, first time ever, since back in '01. <Update: they got it going, remotely, 3:30 PM. Yay!!>

As I preliminarily guessed last month, we also lucked out with the quality of our grain this year. That's a load of winter wheat in the photo above. A good MSU public variety, Yellowstone. The State Grain Lab concured with my opinions, and it tested great! Test weight a smidgen over 60#, 13.9 % protein, sprout damage a miniscule .2%. Dockage a whopping .3%, and Falling Numbers tested 348. Anything over 300 is good, so I'd say this rates Very Good!

That's extremely rare this year, given the substantial August rains, and September was far from a drought also.

It's strange, I'm actually going to a Climate Change Conference at MSU this evening, primarily about the effect on agriculture. One thing... the last couple of years in particular; humidity levels are way up there anymore, until well into the afternoon. I mentioned last year, that back when I was a kid we ordinarily got harvesting by about 10:00 AM, and normally ran until near dark, or sometimes a bit after.

These days, you're lucky to get going by 2:00 PM, and I don't cut on the Rockpile after dark! Sickle guard breakage rates would likely go up astromically...

At least the snow, first of the season back on 9/11, didn't quite make it down here into the valley. Unlike across the ridge! People we know, fellow Farmers Market vendors from over in the Shields got about 4", right down by Wilsall!

So we're also thankful for that, and even our barley turned out all right. Haven't sent a sample to the lab yet, but again, kinda know, and...

We have people that want it, and we're running it through the cleaner. Firing up the big one, patented back in 1924 tomorrow. We've ran a fair bit of camelina through it, although this'll be a first (for me, anyway) cleaning wheat or barley with the big one. That's mainly what it was used for, back in the old Cargill elevator in Conrad, and we have all the screens, so... Shouldn't take me too long to figure it out.

This was when we finished harvesting, back on 9/23. I know, it's not the "conventional" model anymore. You're supposed to have a $450,000 combine, and a big semi truck or two!

Except the thought of harvesting with one of those on the Rockpile absolutely makes me shudder! The Luck of the Irish only goes so far...

 

 

 
8/31/2014

Alas, we're pathetically short on photos for August.

Certainly had a plenty busy month, although we did rebel and take at least an overnight camping trip, back on the 6th. Figured we could easily enough get a campsite in one of the three campgrounds up Hyalite, on a Wednesday.

Dream on! Luckily we found a nice, private spot not far down the Gallatin Canyon, by Spire Rock.

So that was a vacation, albeit a short one. Otherwise, it's work, work...

At least we're through harvesting camelina! Still have some wheat and barley to go, but the weather man sounds promising for decent weather this coming week.

Oddly enough, yesterday we got more rain here on the Rockpile than perhaps anywhere else in the State. A bit over .8" here, while not quite half an inch just down the road at the airport, which was still one of the higher amounts in Montana.

That puts us a bit over 3" for the month. While slightly amazing for August, that completely pales in comparison to rainfall totals in central and eastern Montana.

We're talking six to eight inches of precip, with up to ten in spots! What all but hasn't made the news, is the effect that's going to have on the grain markets, with most of the spring wheat harvest still in the works. Well, not today, but...

Conventional wheat prices were already at eight-year lows, not much over $5 per bushel, and now we're talking massive discounts, and if it's badly sprouted, the elevators won't take it at all. That is going to be a disaster for some...

Luck of the Irish, but I shelled out some of our wheat and barley by hand, even studied it under a magnifying glass, and no sprout damage. Plus of course we're selling it mostly to the local Farmer's Market crowd, the Women of the Dirt, etc., for animal feed. For of course a dramatically better price, with no discounts!

That photo above was one of the rare nice days, during our first session of camelina harvesting and cleaning. At least for a change, all the camelina we'll have on hand will have been ran through the cleaner. Well, after one more session, hopefully tomorrow morning, anyway... That will be very handy, instead of having to clean it every time we want to press a batch.

At least we're not doing that today, although good grief, might need to get after bottling oil. Besides doing yet another fairly good Farmers Market yesterday (oddly enough the second one in a row in rainstorms!) afterward we swung by Bridger Feeds for a coupon bargain on dog food, and lo and behold, they needed re-stocking with the camelina oil. Plus we've also gotten it into another couple of outlets recently, and Kim just called and Town & Country needs more also. That's good...

While completely unrelated, this was one of the only other decent photos from August. A Classic Car event on Main Street in Bozeman. This inspires us that we should paint some of our functional antiques around here. My Dad actually painted at least the box on the '52 Ford grain truck we're still using, way back when I was a little kid! We're obviously overdue to paint the cab also. At least now it has an electric fuel pump, which resolved fuel (actually lack thereof) issues we've been having for some time. Plus we don't haul our wheat over the hill to Butte, as apparently quite a few around here do. So I think we're good to go, even without fresh paint!

 

 

 
7/31/2014

Gotta say, we're glad July is (almost) over!

Here's a very uncharacteristic photo from back on the 14th.

We have foggy mornings occasionally, but actually got a photo of that one!

I think that season is probably over, for the time being. Because it's August tomorrow. Harvest time, right?!

I all but kissed the ground when finished haying, back on the 21st. As I mentioned last month, the old-timers are right, you're not supposed to cut hay prior to July 4 around here. They even picked it by hand, like we do!!

We had two of the more significant custom haying contractors around here attempt balewagon use here, years ago. As I've mentioned, once cured both of them!

We'll likely go to a 90th birthday celebration for one of them, Leonard Reed, at the local Senior Center Sunday afternoon. He's still custom haying...

Perhaps luckily for both of them, he hired son Cody away from a neighboring landscape outfit, way back in a previous era.

Speaking of luck, I sold that last load, and was more than happy to deliver it out by Clarkston. Beats the heck out of loading and unloading it over and over again!

Again, some of the only high-end horse hay, first cutting that didn't get rained on around here. And even goats and cattle are thrilled...!

All the same, I don't foresee switching over to a $75K big square baler anytime soon. We're still haying with a '67 Massey, a '64 $10 NH baler, and a perhaps even 80's swing tongue haybine.

At least we're not still harvesting with one of these!

Nah, looking forward to getting the World's Finest $1000 Combine rolling again here shortly, although it's looking like possibly into, perhaps mid-next week. A bit of seed cleaning, oil pressing, and camelina hauling (from right down the road, thank God!), is next on the list.

Even managed to get a prior priority crossed off the list, which resulted in a camping trip to Kevin!! Well, actually harrowing CRP, plus a meeting or three, at least a couple of which actually bore resemblance to "meetings" back in this era...

This cabin had been here since my earliest recollections, in fact my parents used to visit the Olson's with some regularity. They lived in a house just out of sight, not in this cabin, though.

Still, as a little kid I went up there semi-regularly.

As I recall, they were renting the property, and it's belonged to the Bye's for a long time since.

Recently learned the prior history from a neighbor, Griff Bye, and apparently this cabin, one of the earliest in the area, was disassembled from out south, somewhere along the Aloe flats, and put up here, significantly prior to either of us being on the scene!

Whoever decided to move the cabin to this little hill...

It's greener than it used to be. In fact the alfalfa, in CRP I harrowed not far west of here...

Plus Griff is doing some really innovative stuff with cover crops, also nearby to this photo.

I highly suspect camelina could thrive around Kevin. It's an Oil Patch, right?!!!

 

 

 

 

 
6/30/2014

Well, my wishes last month for rain have been answered! And then some...

In fact most of our photos from June feature grey skies, which is ordinarily frowned upon. Except farmers never complain about rain in Montana!

Snow, we can complain about, but rain... never!

These photos were from a somewhat rare "excursion", back on 6/14, the last Saturday before Farmers Market season hits, at least here in Bozeman. Although we've been glad to do those the last two Saturdays! Good Markets...

This was as usual, at least partly a "business" trip, though, dropping off camelina meal in Harrison, where one of our main clients was out again! But also checking out some old haunts, and the weather man was wrong again. It didn't rain...

This was the bank in Pony, back in the day.

But then we drifted on down to the Jefferson, and still no rain!

That was good, because there was a free concert at Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, which amazingly wasn't cancelled!

These are the Montana Wild Cats; Phil Aaberg on piano, Kelly Roberti on bass, and Jack Walrath on trumpet.

World-class jazz just down the road! And it didn't rain, although as you can see, it wasn't exactly a heat wave. Except for the music!

So that was almost a "vacation", but again; clients are out of camelina meal, plus re-stocking stores with oil, and online interest ... Rainy weather doesn't seem to hurt the oil market! Not healthy, Omega-3 oils, anyway...

Ones produced with functional antiques, even!

Gotta get a bit more of that done, clean up a bit of summerfallow, but then it's haying season.

The old-timers around here said you didn't cut hay before the Fourth of July, and I think they might still be right.

That photo was today, here on the Rockpile. You can almost see Molly, off to the right. The grass growth here in the Valley of Flowers is maybe the best I've seen. We even attempted to take part of yesterday "off", drove up to Hyalite and then out towards Gateway. It is SO green, everywhere...

We like...

 

 

 
5/31/2014

Come on rain!!

We're supposed to be in for some possibly notable rain today, but it's only been a couple incher so far. That's what we call those storms where the raindrops are a couple of inches apart.

But... unless the weather man is wrong again (impossible!) we might still get a half inch or so, tonight and tomorrow, and then perhaps Monday and Tuesday, and after that...!

Actually they are calling for below normal temps and above normal precip through mid-June.

We like...

We don't exactly live in a flood zone (except for when the snow first melts back in March), and all but don't even fish anymore, so bring it on! The photo above is the East Gallatin, back on 5/21, pushing flood status. It's dropped since, except the main Gallatin river, which drains the high country south past Big Sky to Yellowstone is definitely pushing or slightly exceeding flood status. Not to mention numerous other rivers, as the snowpack is generally quite good, like ~150 percent of "normal", and it's heading downstream.

And, the wind just hit, with rain not far behind! Yay!! (update: maybe not quite yet...)

We'll take it, as we just finished seeding! I know, some people think farming is dull, but it hasn't been dull around here lately, particularly the last few days.

The functional antiques at work again, just finished seeding a field to a horse-oriented alfalfa/grass hay mix, back on 5/24. I thought that was the end of seeding for this spring, although was having misgivings for some time now.

I mentioned back in April we'd finished seeding camelina record early, back on 4/12. That's ordinarily good; the earlier the better. We had a rain immediately after, but only a few hundredths, and then, about a week later, a half inch or so.

It's very strange, on the crappier, rockier ground (on the Rockpile?) we got a near-perfect stand. But on the better ground, oddly enough, not that good of stand. I'm thinking that initial shower might have been enough to sprout at least some of the camelina, and then it dried out before the next watering.

So we'd been watching this closely, and very impatiently waiting for the camelina to kick into gear. It normally takes a while to get going, but then all but overnight explodes in growth, canopies and takes over. I won't go on about the allelopathic effects, natural suppression of other plant growth.

But... as of this last Tuesday it finally became apparent that wasn't going to be the case, at least on the stuff with a poorer stand. So... Praise the Lord found some organic barley seed right up the road, made it there and back with the '52 Ford, fired up the antique seed cleaner and with some of the world's finest functionally antique farming equipment (best pictured in that photo from back in April, when we thought we'd set a record!), managed to effectively plow, clean up the weed situation, and seed organic barley, in one pass.

And now it's going to rain!

Still, the barley might not ever get as tall as this Boone & Crockett Record Book lambsquarter plant in front of our barn! This photo was just yesterday.

I won't let it go to seed, and we should eat it! In fact, maybe tomorrow...

We've since learned that lambsquarter and pigweed (and their relative quinoa) are in the top ten for vitamin and mineral content.

But don't worry, we're not going to plant the Rockpile to lambsquarter. Although...?!?

Nah, gotta pick it by hand. But then we do have Farmer's Markets starting again this coming week, and have considered taking fresh greens... Organically produced on the Rockpile!!

 

 

 
4/30/2014

As months go, gotta say we're fairly pleased with April. Not least because although we got plenty of April showers, still managed to finish seeding camelina record early, back on 4/12!

Just in time, although we barely got a sprinkle out of that cloud. Got upwards of a half inch a week or so later, and were shocked to wake up to six inches of extremely heavy, wet snow last Sunday. That one hadn't made the forecast! Mother Nature continues to take delight in messing with the weather forecasters...

Just prior to that storm, managed to sneak in some grass, with the other end of the machinery spectrum.

This was just a dab, reseeding some horse pasture mix into where we replaced/upgraded our septic system and drainfield, last fall. You can see why we call it the Rockpile Ranch!

That disc drill dates back to the 40's, yet another functional antique here at the working museum. In some ways they never improved the technology, as you can seed literally anything imaginable, across the extreme spectrum of seed size. Can't be beat for seeding grass, and we still are going to seed a smallish field into alfalfa/grass mix with it one of these days.

Last month I mentioned we'd gotten our camelina oil into the new Lucky's Market in Billings. We did another in-store demo over there, the Saturday before Easter.

We remain very impressed with their operation, which tons of customers seem to agree with! They're doing a phenomenal business, and friends in the Billings area say it's changed the grocery market situation there already. Decent prices, very good produce and meat departments, a deli and of course their Natural Living section features a fantastic Omega-3 supplement!

Our demo booth was just inside the door, a great location. We'll be back to do more of those...

They got mention in the Billings Gazette again recently, in an article about the growing popularity of specialty meats. Lucky's in-house, naturally cured and smoked bacon stands out, and reportedly they're selling over 300 pounds per day of that!

We still have bacon from half a hog we got from one of the Women of the Dirt, but when that runs out we'll be getting some from Lucky's.

So, spring seems to be off to a much better start than last year. The grass is off to a good start (as well as our winter wheat!). In fact even mowed the "lawn", back on the 21st!

I far prefer those mowers to the mechanical variety! And they're thrilled also...

And now, noon approaches, which usually means it's time to get away from the computer, get outside and do something! Sounds like a person could even get a sunburn the next couple of days. Unless of course the weather man is wrong again...!

 

 

 
3/31/2014

So are we almost through with March Madness?!

It would appear so, although I don't really expect things to let up into April. We'll be glad for showers and flowers, although we've actually been getting plenty of the former already.

This photo was from back in the first days of March. There wasn't that much snow, but due to a layer of solid ice beneath it, had to chain up the '52. First time in maybe four years...

More small-world connections, but we bought that tractor at Big Sky Equipment in Conrad in a previous life. But then some time later I met the guy in Cut Bank, whose Dad bought that tractor new at Torgerson's, and he still had the chains! Plus he's a bass player, and we jammed, although clearly weren't going to be the next Beatles, so...

Still, tractor chains make all the difference in these situations, and I'm very glad we wound up with them.

Other than that, though, we're again pathetically short of photos for March. Should have taken some when we went over to Billings, to do in-store demos for our camelina oil at the new Lucky's Market there. We're very impressed with that operation, not just because they prominently featured our camelina oil. They're doing a superb job on publicity, have had several feature articles in the Billings Gazette, and the place has been packed since they first opened. In fact it's really striking that way; the aisles are full of customers. They have ~10 checkouts, and people are commonly backed up 20-30 deep at each one! And, we're told it's still that way!!

They have very good produce and meat departments, as well as stressing locally produced, healthy foods as much as possible. Their prices are good, there's a great deli, and of course you need to check out their Natural Living section, where there's a great Omega-3 supplement still on sale!!

So, we're not quite sure if March is going out like a lamb, although it's almost getting kinda nice out there. Was white again this morning, although not like the photo above. It's not quite farming weather yet, but we're glad for the moisture. In fact it looks like we're going to be off to a significantly better start than back in '13, but then those numbers are known to be unlucky, right?

Fortunately fourteens aren't known for that at all. Plus it's time to get back after pressing camelina oil. We've been doing that more than normal lately, at least for this time of year, primarily due to demand for the meal as an animal supplement. But then it's also going to be fertilizer season one of these days, and we sold some of the meal for that at the Winter Farmers Market this past Saturday. Plus we might have set a record for oil sales at a Market, but as usual the networking opportunities, and being part of that community can far outweigh the dollars...

 

 

 
2/28/2014

February is over already?!

It is the shortest month, although didn't seem that way at times here at BiOmega3. Busy, busy (which can be good!), and only made it out cross-country skiing twice, just here on the farm. And frankly, conditions were lousy! But now, we're getting fresh powder on top of a bulletproof base, and after we get back up above zero, might have to break out the skinny skis again.

So we're also short of photos from February. Although... this one kinda nails it, I'd say.

When you have a rainbow at dawn in February, that's good! I'll take that as a good sign. Plus we also had eagles fly very close by, which we've taken as good medicine for a long time now.

What ate up a lot of time in February was meetings. We had meetings with a wide variety of government agencies, covering quite the spectrum, but one common theme is they all deal with natural resources.

However, one thing you won't find in the Telegraph is preliminary "gossip" about these meetings. Once things come to fruition, then that might be different, but for the moment...

At least a good sign... after one of the more intense meetings I've been in (and I have extensive experience with this) the head guy laughed and said "that was fun".

Along those lines, we also managed to get our camelina oil into Lucky's Market. Plus they'll also likely be carrying our line of granolas, and the necessary back label changes on those are coming together, right at this very moment! Lucky's will soon be opening a new store in Billings, MT on 3/11. We'll be doing in-store demos there the next two weekends.

And then on the same day that fell together, we also managed to get our oil into the grocery store in Harrison, MT! Turns out one of our main clients for the camelina meal as an animal supplement not only farms over there, but runs the store. Perhaps a different end of the spectrum than Lucky's, but if you can work with a wide diversity of people and businesses, that's good, right?

So farming an be fun in February!

 

 

 
1/31/2014

2014 is off to a good start, busy and balmy! Well, the balmy part might be over (for now), but overall January was quite nice, in comparison to a lot of other places. So we won't get any sympathy complaining about the weather...

The busy part... well, I don't really expect sympathy on that either. Living and working here in the Valley of Flowers, we've long said that complaining is useless.

Plus we even managed to replenish our firewood supply over the last couple of days. Just in time for winter's return, so we're thankful for that. Especially when the power went out for most of an afternoon, a couple of days ago. Luckily I was away from the computer, and power outages are all but irrelevant when you're stacking firewood.

We're also able to make good use of yet another antique, the stock rack from our '52 Ford F5, the red truck in the background of the above photo. Talk about family heirlooms, my Dad bought that truck in '53, and I even helped the relatives haul cattle to the stockyards in Shelby with that truck, not long after getting my driver's license. There's a couple of big hills on that route, mainly on either side of the Marias river. Driving that truck up and down big hills with a load on will age one prematurely, and I probably did grow up a little on those days.

But then we continue to make good use of other functional antiques also!

Back during the balmy days of mid-month we pressed camelina oil, and we have yet to find a more efficient, or cost-effective power source than the '67 Massey. This is something we've investigated to considerable degree, and we're not even burning camelina oil in it for fuel, although easily could. Again, it has great properties for biofuel, except the nutritional benefits far outweigh the fuel aspects, and like a lot of ancient crops it doesn't yield all that high, so we prefer selling the oil in little bottles.

We'll be doing that at the Bozeman Winter Farmers Market tomorrow morning, so February will be starting off busy also. No big surprise...

But again, we're not complaining! Far from it...

 


 
12/31/2013

The end of another year is upon us, and as numbers go, I'd have to say thirteen wasn't too bad this time.

All the same, I'm looking forward to 2014!

Even though it's raining here on the Rockpile at the moment!

Kinda barely, but we're currently under a winter weather advisory, which means it should be a blizzard. I'm not complaining... in fact it's our official policy that we never complain about rain in Montana. Snow, though...!

Well, we can't even complain about that. Except I haven't even been cross-country skiing yet! Thought about taking a brief farm tour yesterday, until I looked closer at the rocks...

Possibly made better use of time by going to the dump! Best before winter hits again, although didn't see the herd of elk everyone else is seeing around there...

But then also might have gotten another Holiday "gift" yesterday, although we're paying for it, but...

SO much less than alternatives...!!

Besides ancient Fords, we now have a brand-new professional grade laser printer here on the Rockpile!

I just have to rattle on briefly about this, as we've been in labeling school for years now! And if you're bottling oil, not to mention packaging any number of other things, this magical poly stock is hands down the best deal going.

Except it's not the "normal" thing, and numerous printers seem to agree that switching over to it is kinda like playing the violin, and so...

But today's the end of the year, so we mostly printed documents and envelopes and such, which is absolutely laughably cheap (and maybe even sharper print!) with these, but now it's maybe time for a few more labels. Plus now there's a song stuck in my head...

There's also another good thing or two that have fallen together here toward the end of '13, which similar to cheap (and superb!) labels we've been investigating for some time now.

So when thirteen's are lucky, (in spite of farming "disasters"), must say I'm definitely looking forward to '14.

Happy New Year!

 

 
11/30/2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

There's no doubt it's Thanksgiving around here, as Cody got an elk this past Sunday.

We're very thankful, not just for a year's supply of wonderful, nutritious, lean meat...
It's always good to get out and connect with Nature, and this is one of our favorite spots. In fact we call it Paradise.

Plus we're also thankful for good mountain ponies! Although we're down to only two useable ones at the moment. We hope to have that situation remedied by this time next year. In this case we got by, though. Travelled light, just a backpack tent, and packed both horses coming and going. Largely horse feed on the way in, and elk on the way out!

We even did a little farming in November, though. Plowed a field that had quite a bit of grass survival from when we last plowed back in September. Not now, though, and we might actually get camelina in early next spring. Just a light harrowing, and the camelina/clover mix might be going in April for a change.

Plus we have a good stand of winter wheat going, so with any luck we'll be off to a good start next spring!

We also pressed oil in November, mainly due to demand for the meal as an animal supplement. We're getting notable interest in that, and speaking of healthy, Omega-3 meals, I think it's dinner time!

Elk steak...

 
10/31/2013

Happy Halloween!

At least the only trick or treater we've had yet today was Bill Gates!
In fact computer problems threatened getting a Telegraph out on time, which we've managed to do by month's end since '01!

So you talk about self-imposed deadlines...

Besides taking my computer to the doctor, also took animals to the veterinarinan. They were having computer problems at the vet clinic also, so we're thinking it might have something to do with Halloween.

Either that or it's this constant "upgrade" situation, perhaps more aptly described as "planned obsolescense" or "scheduled failures".

At least that's still irrelevant if you're wandering around up in the mountains.

Thank God!! This photo was yesterday morning, here in the back yard. Unfortunately no elk around. No fresh sign anyway, quite a bit of droppings along this ridgetop from other seasons. We're talking winter range...

Except it's not winter here in the Valley of Flowers yet!

That photo is all but the only snow we've gotten in October. Not to complain!!

Our standard policy is that we never complain about rain in Montana. Snow, though...

So we can't complain about abundant, just right rain, and very little snow this month. Unless you're elk hunting! Farming, though... I think worked out fairly well.

Seeded some winter wheat, into mud, in October. And then even harrowed some of it, which further cleaned up the grass. We're talking relatively "recent" breaking here, which still has quite a bit of grass. If you're organic, you don't soak it with Roundup, though.

In fact it used to be fairly common to harrow winter wheat, but not until spring! That was before chemical "control" became commonplace. Fortunately winter wheat competes amazingly well (except with fanweed and cheatgrass) and even back when I was a "kid" ('70's?) I questioned my Dad why we were spraying our winter wheat. There were all but no weeds out there, and it was taking off...

But I won't go on about farming stuff! Even though we might be pressing camelina oil tomorrow. That's November, though... assuming no zombie invasions tonight!

I'm not too concerned about that, although we may have run into a ghost or two up in the Bridgers last weekend! Cody obviously wasn't concerned either, as he's settling in for a nap in the above photo. This was opening morning, after we'd determined there likely weren't any elk in there. Or maybe one, or two, but...

I've since learned we were right. I'm not going into all the reasons why, but have talked with a fair number of neighbors and others lately, and there's been some screwy stuff going on.

But then maybe ghosts will retaliate!!

Tonight could be interesting after all...

 



 
9/30/2013

This year has been perhaps (if not hands down) the strangest weather I've seen. Except right now, it's actually pretty nice out there, sunny and windy! For a change, that's a good thing. And I spent some time earlier this month up in Napi's Country, where the wind howls.

But earlier this morning, here in the Valley of Flowers...

That's right out front here, looking over toward the Tobacco Roots.

So some people think farming is dull, but that's not been my experience. In fact the (even partial) days of farming weather in September could almost be counted on the fingers of a careless butcher, or maybe even Jon Tester!!

You'll almost never hear me praise politicians, in fact the best advice I ever got from one; Brady Wiseman, the original sponsor of our bison bill years ago said "don't trust any of us!"

Still, apparently Tester killed the Monsanto Protection Act, a "rider" attached to a far more important bill, but that's how it's done, right...? This had already cleared the House, and if we didn't have an organic farmer in the Senate... God help us!

Still, I'm kinda surprised this hasn't made the news, so to speak. Except for Don Pogreba's blog, and a couple of links from there. Incidentally, Don's a public school teacher in Helena, but originally from our old haunts up by Shelby. We never crossed paths up there, although I was in those parts again this month. And again, viewpoints vary, but...

This was Bert's Bar in Kevin, back when I was a kid, until she sold it and as you can see, a while after that time stopped.

I was doing some maintenance on property of ours up there, and thought about staying at the old Baker Place homestead, until I discovered it's claimed these days by a horned owl!

So instead...

The weather's been different up there also! In fact it rained between two and four inches a couple of days prior to these photos. That's kinda been the "norm" this summer, though, which is why the grass is green still (perhaps unprecedented?!) when you get north of Shelby. In fact neighbors up there are getting hay yields comparable to here in the Gallatin, which almost makes me shudder!

Not just the cost of new machinery anymore, but of course with haying, it doesn't matter; something always breaks! But then the price of hay might have tripled or even quadrupled since back in the day, except expenses...

Given the weather, I even checked the price of organic winter wheat recently, and it's a bit over $14 per bushel! Hahahahahaha!!!!!

I can't help it, that just makes me laugh...

Not to mention, you can still harvest it with the World's Finest $1000 Combine, at least here on the Rockpile Ranch!

In fact doing it with a $300,000+ combine with a thirty or forty foot header (which alone costs more than whole combines used to!) in the Rockpile...?

Gads... that makes me shudder too!

 

 

 
8/31/2013

Here it is the end of August already, and most farmers who aren't through harvesting yet would be out there at it again right now. Particularly given the bizarre "harvest" weather lately, with humidity levels over 50% (pushing double that!) until after lunch, when it turns to thunderstorms. I did harvest a day or three recently, successfully dodging storms, or at least on the edge of them.

Except today! Saturdays as usual start early around here, a bit after 5:00 AM. We're supposed to be at the Saturday Farmer's Market by 7:00 AM, but more about the opportunities there later...

For some reason my mind is in different places this afternoon. The photo above is from a hike I took earlier this month. Have only managed to do that once per summer, for three years running now. Tsk...

Back on farming, though, or at least harvesting... This year has been perhaps the oddest harvest weather I've ran into. Used to be, in a previous life up on the Hi-Line, we'd be rolling by about 10:00 AM, and run until near dark. Good grief, that was then, this is now!!

These days, harvesting organic (wait a minute, make that naturally produced) camelina, given the bizarre weed situations this year, we have to run it through our (fortunately massively higher capacity) seed cleaner more or less right after cutting. And I know, you aren't supposed to put things in parentheses more than once per sentence, or maybe even paragraph, but I had numerous professors come through the Market this morning, and I don't think they'd argue!

In fact, they're generally quite supportive, but more about that later...

So we'll get rolling on harvest again tomorrow, and two or three days later, might be done! And then a bit of maintenance on our stuff up by Cut Bank, and further renovations on the former meat plant here, and we'll be back up to code, and then...

Fortunately we've always gotten along well with inspectors. They're doing their job, and seem to generally like people who are pushing the envelope. Legally!!! And now you can read restaurant inspection reviews online, which is entertaining, so...!

At least the site in the photo above isn't regularly inspected! Plus there's been meals served there, and subsequent ones facilitated, for...

When I first came across this spot last fall, I assumed it was put there by early settlers here in the Valley of Flowers, but the more I think about it...

It was way before that. Definitely pre-inspection days. Far before that...

I would never diverge (!) but this has been on my mind lately. And in some ways, this kind of thing has held up just fine into the smart phone age. And it will endure way beyond...

This has been of note here lately, including a recent public preview of a hunting video, soon to be distributed far and wide. Briefly, this was done by a local CPA, Randy Newberg. A very successful local accountant, but also hunter. He has a potentially life-threatening condition, and decided to make his time count. I'm not into videos, and even told Randy years ago that hunting is not supposed to be a spectator sport. I immediately apologized, and if there's anyone that's cut out to do... something other than "horn porn", he's doing it. Way far beyond...

So if you happen to read through that thread of comments, "Rimrock" is... someone familiar to me. I've often said, that these days, if you only have two identities, that are basically identical, it's hardly grounds for counseling!

So I have a deep connection with people who likely built that stone cairn, up by...

Well, I think it's kinda up by Amnesia Lake!

It's a great spot. You hike about fifty yards in any of three directions, and you have a superb view of the surrounding neighborhood. Not to mention, it's all but a multi-lane interchange on the wildlife freeway, and you don't even have to get up at 4:00 AM. Assuming you camp up there, although again, you're not going to drive there, but that's how it's been for... how long?

At least back then, Omega3's were common in the diet. Although you had to work for it, but again...

So at the Market today, amongst numerous conversations, one of the potentially most interesting was from a Professor from Ohio State, who is interested in the effect on cancer. Omega3's have been shown to be critical for everything from cardiovascular health, joint and brain function, skin tone, mental conditions (mainly avoiding depression and bipolar disorder) and...

So we'll see. If it proved to have a beneficial effect on cancer suppression (which wouldn't surprise me even slightly)...

You talk about Big Game hunting...!

 

p.s. We meet a lot of interesting people at the markets, and speaking of "smart phones", the following video was filmed on one...

http://www.jennihulburt.com/2013/08/are-you-eating-camelina/

 

 

 

 

 
7/31/2013

July has been an exceedingly strenuous month here on the Rockpile Ranch. But, at least we just finished plowing the summer fallow, which continues to make me more of a believer in the organic model.

It would have been nice to get the plowing done a week or two earlier, but that wasn't meant to be. Haying and another tumultous issue or two (dozen!), mainly related to Kim's mother's health care. Literally every day has been unpredictable, but what else is new...

Back to weeds, though, as I mentioned last month the weed issues here in the Valley of Flowers might be the worst I've ever seen this year. Perhaps mainly due to things starting out frighteningly dry, but then abundant rain (thank God!) which also made the weeds thrive.

But at least instead of soaking them (and everything else) in chemicals, we've been practicing organic weed "control". Started out with mowing the Canada thistle and wild oat patches with the hay swather, starting back in late June.

The above photo was just after we'd rebuilt the skid plate. Those have to be stronger than normal on a Rockpile Ranch!

Mowing weeds is not a magic solution, but at least it prevents them from making seed, which is kind of a big deal.

And then we went to mowing hay. I've often said that haying might be the least productive use of time of anything I do! I didn't grow up haying, and it's still not my thing, but it's part of the deal here.

At least the horses approve! And, for what it's worth (maybe $200+ per ton) we have very good quality, organically produced, weed free hay that we put up without it getting rained on at all after mowing. That was kind of rare for first cutting stuff here in the Gallatin, although serious hay guys (a treatable disorder?) would laugh as some of them are already on their second cutting. Only on irrigated ground, of course, but their first cuttings all got rained on, so...

Plus, as you can see we're not running a couple hundred thousand dollars worth of haying equipment.

In fact that's a Ten Dollar Baler! Not counting time and parts we've put into it, of course...

But at least it's working fairly well, perhaps almost like back in '64, when it was new. We got the bugs out of the knotter last summer, and tweaked a few other minor issues this year, and might be good to go for a decade or three yet! At least we don't hay all that much, which again, can be cured with counseling...

Go ahead and laugh, but the Tightwad Model works here on the Rockpile.

Yep, we still pick and stack our hay by hand. Not that we haven't investigated other alternatives... We've had a couple of the more significant custom haying contractors in these parts try picking it up with balewagons, but...

We don't call it the Rockpile Ranch for nothing, and one attempt cured both of them! You basically have to raise and lower the pickup for each bale, or you're going to be hitting it on rocks and breaking things, so...

We pick it by hand. Tsk.

But at least we're done with that!! And now have the weeds cleaned up in our summer fallow acres, and just finished a field, that uncharacteristically for the Rockpile doesn't have fanweed or bulbous bluegrass, so might lend itself to seeding winter wheat. And of course, organic good quality wheat is going for ~$15/bushel, versus hauling it to the elevator and seeing how much they discount you from the quoted price, which is around $6.50/bushel, although based on extensive past experience that actually means more like $5.00.

Speaking of wheat...

It tells you something about the kind of year we're having that I had a wheat plant mature, growing in the back of my pickup! Yep, it's a farmer truck that hasn't been the the detail place ever, and only rarely even to a car wash! But if you get enough rain that a wheat plant can head out, growing in accumulated material under the toolbox, that's not too bad...

In fact that's our wheat crop this year!! We have everything else seeded to camelina, and will be harvesting that one of these days. And then pressing and bottling the oil, and getting it further into the markets as an outstanding Omega-3 supplement. And, we don't have to pick it by hand!!

 

 

 
6/30/2013

As June winds down, the Gallatin is definitely living up to its long-standing nom de plume; the Valley of Flowers. In spite of things starting out frighteningly dry back in April and May, once the monsoon season hit back on May 20, we've gotten more rain than I can keep track of! Well over six inches by now, and got another .6" last evening. On an organic farming tour yesterday afternoon it was agreed if we got one more decent rain, we'd be in good shape. That idea was even supported by people who've already mowed hay! It's a standard joke of mine that we need to thank people who lay down hay early, as it can all but guarantee rain in later June. Maybe that's partly why the old-timers said to not mow hay until after the Fourth of July. At least that policy still is in effect here on the Rockpile Ranch, which all but doesn't even qualify as "dryland" this year!

Check out the pasture growth in the background of the photo above. Of course it's mainly of Cody, yet again push-starting his '76 Honda. That works at times, and he even got to ride it home from town in a rainstorm a few evenings back!

Speaking of plant growth, we're thrilled to finally have some decent photos demonstrating the benefits of camelina meal as a natural fertilizer.

This was back on June 11. We'd spread and incorporated varying rates of camelina meal fertilizer, running lengthwise kinda left to right. 5# per 100 sq ft in the nearest third, 10# in the middle third, and none in the back.

Check out the difference in that spinach!

This is looking lengthwise down those rows, and shows the row of lettuce between the two of spinach. The nearest third is fairly decent, the middle notably better, and the far end...

Again, the bottom part of the photo got ten pounds of camelina meal per 100 sqare feet, and none on the top half. What a difference!!

Of course it's not just the garden that has exploded. Basically all the plant growth is thriving. Our camelina is noticeably behind normal this year. We seeded into dust, all but unheard of here in the Valley of Flowers, so it didn't come up until the monsoon hit. That's at least part of the reason we have possibly some of the worst weed infestations I've seen! Ordinarily the camelina gets going early and largely out-competes the competition. There's more variation than usual in the camelina growth this year, for some reason... Some of it has already exploded and blossomed, and the rest is just about there. Thank God for that rain again last night, could make the difference.

In the meanwhile, we've used an organic herbicide, BurnOut II on some bindweed patches. All but never had those before to any degree, which is very strange. And I need to get back after mowing the Canada thistle patches, and then possibly treating those spots with camelina meal and the magic secret solution! And then spot plowing with the '67 Massey and the ten foot plow that I all but kiss the ground I don't have to do all the farming with anymore! And then we'll be mowing and baling hay, with yet more functional antiques.

So yet another month has gone by and we haven't even been fishing, or camping, or... Well, Kim actually did "camp" in Ronan for a couple of days this week, as she was taking an advanced food safety class, mainly on canning, so now she's cleared to get her fantastic mustard in the markets.

At least Cody's made it out a few times, one of which resulted in the fantastic dinner below!

Speaking of which, lunch looms, and then it's off to town to visit Kim's Mom, who's been in Intensive Care now for a bit over two weeks. She's doing a lot better, plumb spunky, so hopefully...

And then it'll be July! See you next month...

 

 

 
5/31/2013

Just as I'd hoped for last month, it appears Mother Nature did switch April and May on us! In fact, it's snowing up in the Bridgers behind us here, and at least was drizzling down here in the Valley of Flowers.

The chickens don't seem to mind rain either. In fact they seem to like it as much as we do.

As I'd previously mentioned, April and a significant portion of May were frighteningly dry. But at least when the monsoon season hit, things changed dramatically all but overnight.

That photo was back on 5/20, and yes, that's three inches of rain in the gauge!!

And now we've gotten a bit over another inch in sundry showers more recently. So the plants are happy also, and we have a good stand of camelina (interseeded with clover) growing. Like usual, it takes a bit to get going, but then all of a sudden it explodes. I'm looking forward to that, as we have some kind of unusual weed issues also. Mainly a low creeping plant, that I've never seen to this degree. It's not buckwheat or bindweed, at least, still just patches here and there. My horses still have access to a field seeded with camelina, and they seem to enjoy eating this new salad. Unfortunately I haven't come up with flocks of organic sheep or goats that might agree, and it's getting a bit late for that anyway, as the camelina will be up to edible size any day now, so...

With any luck, the camelina will outcompete it, and if not we'll plow out those patches. Plus of course the usual canada thistle patches will either get plowed out, or mowed, or maybe the new magic secret solution! We'll see...

Last year the camelina all but outcompeted even thistle, but timing seems a bit different this year. Who ever heard of such a thing...?

Speaking of weeds, the photo above was a booth we did at the local Kenyon-Noble Gardening Center expo, perhaps thankfully back before it started raining! This was mainly featuring our camelina meal as a natural fertilizer/soil amendment. There's even a degree of weed and insect suppression going on there, besides the nutritional benefits and water retention.

Plus of course chickens also thrive on it, so we're going to continue the animal supplement aspects also. Naturally, that demand is fairly steady (and expanding dramatically!), while fertilizer is somewhat seasonal. 'Tis the season, thankfully...

Not to mention Farmer's Market season is almost upon us again! In fact did the Helena one last weekend, and we're heading there again in the morning. That's quite a Market. They close down two blocks, down in the historic district, and have a solid line of vendors on both sides of the street. Plus quite good traffic, which we'd heard to be the norm.

So we might be doing two simultaneous Saturday Markets, once the Bozeman one gets going in later June. Son Cody is up for the Helena one. Plus the Livingston one fires up this coming Wednesday, so once again, 'tis the Season!

So it's time to go bottle some oil. A good rainy day project...

 

 

 

 
4/30/3013

April soon vacates, or at least turns into May. Except it would be nice if it turned out Mother Nature decided to switch those months on us for a change. She can have a sense of humor, far beyond what we've seen lately...

I'm not so sure about the showers/flowers timing anymore, though, so I hope she comes through.

As months go, can't complain about April, though. Except for tax bookwork! But even that is pointless at this point. Or maybe not...

Still, it wasn't long after April Fools Day that we turned the dirt here on the Rockpile.

And incidentally, that's varying rates of camelina meal fertilizer in the left foreground, about to be "incorporated"! Plus now we're moving it out in pallets, which can lead to trucks, trains and then ships and...?

So farming can be fun!

Another good thing is we'll have our camelina in on time again this year. Usually that's been an issue here in the Valley of Flowers, although was mildly surprised to remember we got it in on time last year also, by reading further down the list here...

So even though it can approach fun, we far from spent all month on the tractor.

It can be hard to get away from the desk, but the cats appreciate it when I do. If I could only get them to deal with the paper piles! Without littering...

But then they're not the only happy animals around here.

Ancient Thistle has made it to green grass again. He and the other horses were thrilled today! Out on pasture, somewhat earlier than usual, but we'll rotate them around a bit, and perhaps even put them on a "hay" field for a week or so, previously unheard of I'd thought!

Except talking with a rancher friend/associate, he'd actually done that a time or two in the past also. Except not a few horses, we're talking quite a few cattle. The feed situation changes with some regularity also, right?

What doesn't...?

Still, I'm looking forward to seeding again tomorrow, and we'll be done a day or two after that, just in time for the Montana Farm and Ranch Show this weekend.

So that's manageable. But then have been in correspondence with a fair number of Hi-Liners lately, where unlike here in the Bozone it's mostly nice and wet! Mostly camelina related stuff, although one of our old neighbors had just finished seeding ~3000 acres of peas, and was looking into further alternatives. Hauling wheat and barley to the elevator anymore... ??

It's far better to work with Mother Nature. And if you both get a laugh out of it...!

 

 

 
3/31/2013

It's spring! A month early!!

It wasn't quite spring when I took the photo above back on 3/9, although the grass was just barely starting to green up, something that will be more than welcome in the Beartrap Burn. This photo is looking southeast across the Beartrap Canyon of the Madison River, some wild country that I used to spend quite a bit of time in. Mostly elk related ventures, although also plenty of camping and packtrips. I kinda miss that, so it was nice to at least take a day hike to within view of the neighborhood.

It's amazing how much country burned in that fire last summer, way more than is visible from the road. To think it was started by someone playing with fireworks down along the river...

I had a conversation at the Farmer's Market yesterday with a young guy who'd spent the prior couple of summers fighting fire in eastern Montana. Our son Cody also spent a couple of summers doing that, although thankfully the fire seasons in Montana weren't too bad in those years, and he was in other states most of the time. Yesterday neither of us ventured to predict the fire season in Montana this year, although we might have both shuddered slightly...

I'm even hesitant to predict about farming, except for remaining bullish on camelina! If indeed spring has arrived, that would be record early for here in the Valley of Flowers. Back in our previous life farming on the Hi-Line, I used to shoot for being in the field by April 10, although a lot of years it was more like the 20th.

Here in the Gallatin we're a thousand feet higher, so it's been somewhat rare for me to make it into the field in April at all! But unless the weather man is wrong again (Impossible!!), I just might be farming this coming week. That would likely be good, as camelina lends itself to early seeding, is very frost tolerant, and has generally produced the best yields when seeded early, the sooner the better! Plus of course then it's matured by the time the blast furnace typically hits...

At least we're had the '67 Massey going. No field work as yet, but besides being yet another functional antique, we haven't found a more efficient power source for running our oil press. And this is something we've investigated to considerable degree...

Plus now we're not only in the oil business, but also fertilizer! We have our camelina meal, the byproduct after we cold-press the seed, into most of the local gardening supply outlets as a natural fertilizer/soil amendment. Besides a beneficial nutrient blend it helps with moisture retention and plant availability. Not to mention there's a degree of weed and insect suppression. Plus we now have it in bigger bags, visible in the background of the photo above. So if you're going to be roto-tilling the garden this week, better grab a bag! It's available at Planet Natural and Cashman Nursery, and shortly at both Kenyon-Noble Gardening Centers.

So even though this is preposterously early for growing season to arrive, I've heard rumors that there's been a Dutchman or two out at Churchill in the field already, which we're about to go investigate. Actually a holiday drive, touring the back roads over to Ennis and likely even down to Cameron. Kim and I were discussing this yesterday, and came to realize we haven't gone anywhere (outside the Bozone) since our anniversary back in October! Tsk... So at least today we're also coming back through Harrison, and have an early dinner reservation at the Willow Creek Cafe. Gotta have a vacation before farming season hits, right?

 

 

 
2/28/2013

Farming in February is Fun!

It can be, anyway. Of course no field work (thank God!), but as I've mentioned it kinda feels like planting seeds, in a way.

We're getting significantly higher interest in our camelina lately. Surely it's not just that at long last, I finally got around to search engine optimizing the website, although that's definitely helped.

Plus we don't spend much on advertising, for better or worse, richer or poorer, etc. But we did just have an ad come out in Zone 4 magazine, and are getting response to that also. It's going to be an early spring, right, it'll be gardening and farming season again before long! We're enthused about the camelina meal as a natural fertilizer, but we're also getting considerable interest in it as an animal supplement, particularly chickens. In fact also came across the most recent research on that, a paper from Penn State of all places!

So school never lets out!

But then couldn't find any papers on taking apart universal joints on old farm machinery. Plus it turns out you can't rent a U-joint press in Bozeman. At least Cody was here then, and we improvised the arrangement above, which worked like a charm! Ordinarily I don't find mechanical stuff fun, but once in a while...

Speaking of fun, though, I didn't even make it skiing once in February! Tsk...

At least Cody made it fishing once.

So fortunately quite often things can be fun right here on the Rockpile. Cody got this shot of an eagle sitting on the pole out front back in early February.

We view eagles as Good Medicine, and are astounded that we've never lost a chicken to one. Once in a great while to a skunk or two, and we've seen hawks and eagles take hungarian partridge over on the farm occasionally, but for some reason they leave our chickens alone. Good thing they don't know the chickens are getting camelina meal Omega-3 supplement!

Even ancient Thistle, soaking up the sun prior to his post-breakfast nap today, has gotten camelina concentrate as a supplement at times. He's pushing 35 years old, has been retired for a while, but is still doing remarkably well for his age. In fact it's hard to see in this photo, but he's haired over like a polar bear!

He won't be shedding that right away, although again, I suspect we're in for an early spring. Does that mean March Madness? Hopefully not, I far prefer Fun!

 

 

 

 
1/31/2013

Here it is the end of January, and we've spent the day farming!

Well, Kim would argue, baking also for the upcoming Farmers Market this Saturday...

But while I didn't do any actual field work, it was still kind of like planting seeds, in a way.

Along with numerous other amazing things, we have camelina greening up here on the Rockpile! Not to any scale, just a few spots where we happened to spill some while cleaning and pressing seed. Or screenings we'd thrown out for the chickens, or...

The above photo is from today, where the chickens had excavated some camelina sprouts.

Unlike some, we hadn't had luck with fall seeding it, and are theoretically still sworn off that.

Luckily January isn't the month for that either, as the schedule overflows, or at least fills up even without field work!

There's been some amazing stuff going on, which reaffirms my opinion that school never lets out. Besides extensive marketing adventures, now have post-grad research in labeling. We'd inexplicably ran into issues with our most recent labels not adhering properly over a range of temperature changes. Never had a bit of problem with that for years, but all of a sudden...!

But now (just as of today!) we have slightly more flexible, as well as water and oil resistant, still recyclable labels. We again extensively researched the options, including visiting with people who've been at this for a long time, and remarkably it turns out that purchasing these blank but pre-cut labels from out in the cloud, and having them locally printed (with a graphic-specific laser printer) is not only the best deal going, they look great! And stick even better!!

But perhaps far beyond that, some remarkable things seem to be falling together, that reinforce my opinion, also reiterated by one of the folks we're dealing with; "it's not what you know, but who you know".

To some degree, that's true, so among some other remarkable contacts lately, yesterday we had Angie DeYoung, Marketing Director for the Montana Department of Agriculture out for lunch. Fantastic salad with camelina oil dressing, local (as from the back yard) chicken, also local organic potatoes and carrots from our Farmers Market neighbors, whole-wheat camelina bread and magic coconut bars for dessert!

But then today had some even more remarkable developments, connections ranging from Chicago to China, plus Washington and the list expands exponentially! Reports on that can't be in the Telegraph just yet, as we even signed a non-disclosure agreement, and came to instant agreement on commissions, etc., so I have a feeling this is going somewhere.

So when farming in January isn't dull, I take that as a good sign!

 

 

 

 
12/31/12

Happy Holidays!

It is Thanksgiving, right? Feels that way to me, anyway. Looking back over the year, we're thankful for many of the things that have happened. That, and December hasn't been quite as hectic as some past ones. Oh, there's been plenty going on, but particularly with our marketing campaign it became obvious that the Holiday season is just not the time to be hammering people on that. Luckily our local sales have been surprisingly good, particularly considering there's no Farmer's Markets in December. There's other issues pending (which likely resolved, just this morning!) but it was apparent we'd done all we could, and it was time to step back, take a deep breath, and...

Take some time off! Relax a little...

The animals agree, and if I'd only had the camera in hand moments earlier, when black cat Abby, aka Abacus was rubbing himself on Baxter's head with great affection...

We haven't just been sitting by the fire, though, have actually gotten out and gone cross-country skiing with some regularity. Conditions for that are off to a much better start than last year. In fact yesterday I broke out the Alpine Touring gear for a venture up into our private (actually public) ski resort, here in the back yard. Reminded me I didn't even use those skis last winter, as conditions were basically either bare ground, or near-suicidal avalanche danger.

Yesterday I got kind of a late start, and didn't make it up too high. Perhaps luckily, and the snowpack is way better than this time last year, but it's still a bit skimpy, only a foot or so here in the playground. Clearly I need to come up with a name for our private resort. Hmmm, Bridger Backyard...? Nah, can do better than that.

At least what snow there is, is decently stable, with the usual exceptions. And, descents are almost frighteningly fast! Particularly on cross-country skis, and mine are yet more functional antiques, old metal-edged Rossignols that passed for telemark skis back in the day. They still kinda do, from my perspective anyway, and I can usually manage to turn them, unless one must abruptly slow down on a narrow trail. Say, like when you're zooming through the curves on the lower (but still quicker) portion of a descent and run into another hiker and dog. Well, I didn't quite run into them, but might of if I hadn't biffed it! But then that's been a semi-regular occurrence it seems. It's kind of to be expected, for me at least, on rapid skinny-ski descents. Even yesterday though, on the Alpine Touring gear which is notably more stable...

They are more stable, in theory at least, particularly after you've locked your heels down for the descent, but yesterday on about the third turn suddenly I was kissing the ground, or at least blowing the snow off my face. I'm not sure if it's something that comes with being in your fifties, or if I'm forgetting how, or haven't been skiing enough in recent years, or...?

At least now I know my AT bindings still release properly, and made it the rest of the way down without further mishaps. Very rapidly, I must say...

In fact if I can get this wrapped up, I might take the brief skinny-ski tour around the farm, or at least the horse pasture, before doing chores. Sounds like a great way to send off 2012, not to mention build up appetite for the fantastic upcoming New Year's Eve dinner; lobster (on sale, an outrageous bargain) and fondue. Just the family...

So speaking of Thanksgiving, we are! It's been an interesting year, a recurrent theme I fully expect to continue into '13 and beyond. In fact I've maintained a prediction theme for these end-of-the-year columns for some time now, and looking back (and forward) the theme has been pretty consistent.

Producing healthy food products, emphasizing Omega-3 supplements, organically produced in a sustainable manner, working with Nature in a symbiotic relationship with the ecosystem at large...

What's not to like?!

So we'll be looking forward to the sun rising on 2013.

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 
11/30/12

Surely November can't be over yet!

Not quite, anyway, and we're out the door here shortly, so this Telegraph will be brief, for now.

Besides, I'll have way more news after the next couple of days. We're heading out to set up for two events, & will be talking with quite a few people. Should be fun...

First up is Christmas in the Country, at the Dry Creek School north of Belgrade. All sorts of locally grown and handcrafted products, and luckily a friend, one of the Women of the Dirt will have our stuff, including some fantastic lefse that Kim baked.

Because next we're heading over the hill to Livingston, for the Park County Christmas Fair. That's usually a quite good event, although we got in a wreck heading over there two years ago. We've since sworn off going over Bozeman Pass when it's icy, and so we'll see if the weather man is wrong again.

At least it doesn't look like the photo above. That was the only significant snow we got in November, and it had settled a fair bit already by that point. We got about a foot, which rapidly melted and soaked in. And now, they're forecasting mainly rain out of a storm showing up here anytime now. Rain in December, here in Montana?

But again, the weather man has been consistently wrong lately, almost without exception, so we'll see.

I don't know if the weather was any more predictable back when this structure was in use. I doubt it...

I might have to get a photo of the Dry Creek School, although generally gray skies aren't best for photography. Farmers don't care, though, in fact we like!

Anyway, sorry for the brevity, and hopefully I'll get an update posted maybe even yet this month, or not far into December...

Update: Sounds like Christmas in the Country is going well, and LaVonne now has a Facebook page up about it. They sold out of lefse, and she even got a call last night saying it was "as good as Grandma's!"

Traffic was off a bit in Livingston, compared to other years anyway, but sales were decent. And the weather man was wrong! Still no snow on top of Bozeman Pass, not to speak of anyway. And now we're in for a monsoon later today, unless...


 
10/31/12

Happy Halloween!

No trick or treaters as yet, although we very seldom, almost never get those. And if we do, I could probably frighten them off, as I could pass for a zombie.

Although actually probably not, I just got out of the shower and even shaved! Have a couple of meetings tomorrow... I am quite tired, though. We made best use of the gorgeous weather the last couple of days, and cleaned camelina seed.

So even though our seed handling capacity is way up, with the new hopper bins, and the "new" high capacity seed cleaner (patented 1924!) it still resembles work, wrestling a bunch of heavy stuff around. Except at the end of the day, you've cleaned so much more seed than our old 1000#/hr one. All the same, that was still maybe the best $80 I've ever spent, and we'll still use the small one at times also. Gotta like these functional antiques...

The chickens certainly do! In fact they're absolutely thrilled to live at a camelina seed cleaning and oil pressing facility! Chickens do absorb Omega-3's at higher rates than most...

Anyway, the above photo was from today, and the prior one from yesterday. Gotta like temps pushing 70 in late October! At least if you're finishing up some outside projects. And now we have clean camelina in the bins, ready for pressing, and our oil pressing operation has been streamlined a bit also lately. Plus another remarkable discovery or two, but hey, you gotta do something for entertainment, right?

That photo was definitely a highlight of October. Although there was plenty else went on, but Cody getting an elk right at dawn, opening morning... right here in the back yard!!

Go ahead and snort, but while elk hunting can be exceedingly random, we think that one was meant to be. And we're very thankful...

Although after that photo was when it turned strenuous, backpacking it down to within horse range. Cody even built a small travois to haul the hind quarters, which was a first for me! What is it with triangles...?

I won't post all the photos, because speaking of firsts, I'll link to Cody's 2012 album on Facebook, where there's a bunch of good photos.

Can't pass on this one, though, even though zombies don't usually view themselves as photogenic, got good feedback on this one.

That's yours truly, also at dawn opening morning, although for antelope season back on 10/6. We'd not only lucked out with sweet permission, but also with two alfalfa-fed bucks that never knew what hit them. My standard line on antelope is that they're either great, or inedible. You get one that's been eating sagebrush, and ran across a county or three, and...

But if you get one like above, I'm not sure there's better meat to be had!

And, speaking of fantastic meat, we have a handful of buffalo available again!

It's not like the old days, only five. Three 2 1/2 year olds (two bulls and a heifer) and two four year old cows. For what's currently a bargain price (!), because the owner and myself both have trouble getting our minds around the idea of bison at $3+/lb on the hoof!

So if that's of interest, drop us a line.

 

 

 
9/30/12

Rainbows have been scarce this summer, until yesterday...

I thought that was possibly the only rainbow we've had this summer, but Kim says there was another, a double. A further rarity of late.

Speaking of such things, it actually rained briefly here last evening, all but the only place in Montana where it did! Although they say that might become more common in a few days...

The above photo was also last evening, before the clouds got serious. It kinda shows the results of September around here, some of them at least.

Yep, that's two new hopper bins, and the yet again functional antique seed cleaner, and so our seed handling capabilities just went way up. And next time, we're obviously augering directly out of the bin into the cleaner, and then into the truck. And then into the oil press, and...

First, though... this photo was another first; augering camelina into a hopper bin here on the Rockpile Ranch! I like...!!

Of course hopper bins require next to no shoveling, unlike yesterday...

In this case I kinda don't care, though. Besides the tangible sense of history at this place, there's a bin of very good oil content camelina we're buying! Plus there's a couple more even closer here in the neighborhood, and hmm...

Time to be talking to a few farmers about growing some for us next year...

It's not only chickens that love camelina! Although the birds around here are beyond happy lately. Not just the chickens, but of course magpies, who have more personality than most, and the assortment of smaller birds, and bigger ones. Hawks and eagle numbers are up, but amazingly we've never lost a chicken to one. Once in a great while to a skunk, fortunately another rarity...

Almost as infrequent as having new hopper bins around here! Since that was one of the more noteworthy September projects; a few more photos...

 

And now, we get to spend the next couple of days pressing oil, and then the weather's changing, they say.

So maybe we'll even get out of here and have some fun! Possibly deliver camelina meal, partially bartered with Hutterites for chickens, maybe collect an alfalfa-fed antelope or two, and perhaps even check out some new country, to us anyway. Except wait, that still almost sounds like a business trip, partially anyway.

At least I don't think we'll camp at this spot. It's more or less here in the "back yard", off the west slope of the Bridgers. Actually took a hike last Sunday. Only did that once last summer, too... Tsk.

I'd be curious to know how that stove wound up there. I bet there's a story behind that one...

Speaking of stoves, dinner is just served, and I think my stories for September might be about used up. Although there's plenty more, except fatigue precludes, and it's dinner time! See you in October...

 

 

 
8/31/12

Let's see, am I getting overtime for this?

Maybe, as a bit earlier we sold some of our freshly harvested, high quality spring wheat all but right off the combine (actually out of the '52 F5) for half again what they're allegedly paying at the elevator!

And that's FOB the Rockpile Ranch, with minimal freight, from the field about a half mile to "headquarters", again accomplished with the '52!

My Dad bought that truck in '53, I replaced the engine/tranny a few years back, and it still works! Although driving it any distance with a load of heavy, again remarkable quality organically produced spring wheat will age one a bit, but then I'm turning 55 in a few days, and maybe that truck is partly to blame!!

No, I'm glad to just drive it close to home, which will work even better now that at long last, just as of this morning we have some brand spanking new hopper bottom grain bins here on the Rockpile, although they still require assembly. A September project, and then we'll fill them with camelina, some new and some "old", which will also free up some old grain bins in the neighborhood. Those were available everywhere you looked in our old haunts up in Napi's Country, but are exceedingly scarce here in the Valley of the Flowers, so we're thrilled to finally have some (new ones) on site!

Luckily we don't need bins (other than the bulk food bins we already have, another bargain!) to handle Kim's baked goods and granola, etc. for the Farmer's Markets. Cherry pitters are quite an invention, though...

Flathead Pie Cherry Tarts go over well at the Farmer's Markets, although Kim's definitely going to be getting overtime if she finishes some for the one tomorrow morning!

That is really quite a Market. There's been ~4500-5000 people passing through, from 9:00 AM to Noon, with a few on either side. Plus of course regular vendors are supposed to be there by 7:00 AM, so Saturdays start early around here. Not as early as other vendors who drive an hour or more to get here, though...

Still, that's a pretty impressive percentage of the local population, going on 10%, to pass through a morning market! Except actually a noticeable percentage of them tend to be tourists and travelers, which can occasionally turn into amazing contacts!

Our Farmer's Market booths tend to be quite a bit bigger than the one above, although that was just right under the circumstances. That was at the Bozeman Community Food Co-op a week ago today, where we received their 4% Grant this month, immensely appreciated.

So yes, this direct marketed model holds so much more promise, that memories of hauling wheat up the Rimrocks, into the elevators in Cut Bank with the '52 still make me shudder! I also drove an assortment of bigger and better trucks up that hill, but I think maybe everyone should have to drive a 50's Flathead Ford with a heavy load up a hill like that! You'll never be quite the same...

It teaches patience, and maybe even dealing with frustration, vital skills with value far beyond farming, right?

They're also definitely handy if you're farming with this older stuff, although our combine is an '86, almost new for the Rockpile!


And now it has a new main drive bearing, which means it's been pretty much gone through, and might be good for quite a while yet! Another advantage of not having to harvest thousands and thousands of acres...

Plus it's still possible to work on combines of this vintage yourself! At least if you had a great Vo-Ag teacher in high school.

That was the last of four pulleys, sprockets and hubs that had to be removed to expose the failed bearing, which partly due to good engineering didn't start any fires! That shaft is supported by drives in the four directions, or nearly so, which remarkably support it, & so though we were suspicious and keeping an eye on things, even upon "failure" you could still all but hold your fingers on it.

Not so after hub removal, but Thank God for gear pullers, acetylene and oxygen! And penetrating oils, and hammers, and...

So you tell me; was that the better invention, or this?

 

 

 

 


 
7/31/12

Common themes can be a good thing, right? Because July was interesting also!

Believe it or not, that's another functional antique that had just undergone some sheet metal repairs. Getting it transferred off the gooseneck trailer, onto its own flatbed (which the prior owner recovered out of the Gallatin River!) was a little tricky. Thank God Cody was here then...

So I need to get away from the desk, and finish getting that thing operational. Particularly as harvest looms, yet another good thing.

I'm thinking I'm going to have to adjust the routine around here, though. Ordinarily I'm at the computer in the mornings, and then step out the door back into the sixties or maybe seventies the rest of the day. These days, though, doing physical work, wrestling heavy stuff around in the later afternoons around here would be utter insanity and certainly heatstroke potential. Although driving combine would be tolerable, as the World's Finest $1000 Combine might not have air conditioning, but those old swamp coolers aren't too bad!

Amazingly (or not) the camelina is holding up pretty well in the blast furnace. Of course it's early maturing, drought tolerant, competes exceptionally well, and...

Not to go on about farming stuff (I would never do that), but the above photo is a horrendously depleted field that would barely grow wheat and barley in prior years. The camelina interseeded with red clover is doing kinda OK, though, perhaps partly because of ongoing education, sometimes accidental!

When camelina first appeared on the scene here in Montana, going on ten years ago now, the "conventional wisdom" was to seed it at about 3# per acre. Looking back, those were kinda thin stands, although the plants bushed out remarkably. The lower stems were finger-sized and all but indestructible, so if you were building a straw-bale house...

Over the years I'd bumped it up to about 5# per acre, plus a pound and a half of red clover, mostly seeded with our old disc drill. Now that we have mounted harrows on the air seeder, we're back up to 36' in width, versus 10' with the disc drill. Believe me, that helps retain the sanity of farmers... Except as you can imagine, those are still very light seeding rates, versus around a bushel (60#) with wheat.

So when I started out with the air seeder this spring, I set it for three metering units (versus ~50 with wheat or barley), and was mildly alarmed to find out I was getting it on kind of heavy, 8# or so of camelina and clover mix. Except it turns out that was just the ticket! Even Sustainable Oils (alas, now defunct) had the best yield results seeding the camelina at about 6# per acre.

Alas, I cut back to two metering units, and turned out that wasn't heavy enough. Luckily only on a couple smaller fields, but... tsk. Live & learn, etc...

At least the camelina is holding up better than the hay did. Of course the Rockpile isn't exactly hay ground, but even on the more typical good ground here in the Valley of the Flowers, hay yields are atrociously low. In fact at a Farmer's Market last week, someone Kim was talking with said it was up to $260/ton, which I believe would set records around here!

Perhaps luckily I didn't grow up haying, and it's still not my thing. As a soil rebuilding, and horse feeding project, OK, but otherwise...

I far prefer camelina (as a rotational crop), rotating with wheat & barley, and a bit of flax, and...

One noteworthy thing, perhaps the most exciting news we got in July, was approval from the State of Montana, registering the camelina meal (the byproduct after we cold-press the oil) as a natural fertilizer/soil amendment. In fact we got that news the same day I finished haying in the photo above, so Friday the 13th's can be good!!

We'll have it in bigger bags also, it's looking like at Planet Natural and Cashman Nursery, as well as hopefully Murdoch's.

Plus believe it or not, we finally have an online store on the BiOmega3 site!

It's still kind of a rough draft, and if anyone can figure out why the coding refuses to allow me to add the Store link in gold on that top navigation bar, I'll send you some oil! Or buy you a beer, or...

I'd fought with adding conventional "shopping cart" software some time back. As usual, it's a template, and so some parts don't fit all that well. Plus of course with that particular package, after fighting with it for three days I found out it only allowed in-person pickup. No shipping wizards!! Preposterous...

Besides, I highly doubt there's any wizards that handle variable pricing structure, where if you buy one bottle of oil it's retail, but if you do a combo there's a slight discount, and if you get up into cases it's wholesale, and if we're talking pallet loads...

I like that model, though, and so once we add a Paypal button, this might work...

Plus we're also thrilled to have gotten a 4% grant from the Community Food Coop. That's almost a "next month" item, except we set up the entryway display thing after the market last Saturday, and are looking forward to demoing there last Friday in August. I'll be done harvesting by then!

And now, it's time to load up for the Bogert Farmer's Market, and I'm sure glad I didn't leave this until afterward! Gads...

But starting tomorrow morning, I'm back after working on the seed cleaner and combine, and it'll be August and harvest time! Except it's already felt like that for a month now, but all the same... it probably won't be dull.

 

 

 

 
6/30/12

How quickly things change!

Last year it stopped raining the first day of summer, 6/21. This year summer arrived a day late, but hit with a vengeance on the 22nd. That's when the blast furnace fired up, with temps pushing 100 and nasty wind. No big surprise; fires erupted. In fact we could be in for a long and nasty fire season.

At least here on the west side of the Valley of the Flowers, it's still fairly green.

That photo is of the north end of the valley, looking over toward the Horseshoe Hills.

And then last evening we were out scouting crops, mainly for an upcoming video which we're going to start shooting here shortly, and lucked out with the following photo.

So now we can say that camelina is Pet Approved!! Molly certainly likes it, as do I!

Plus Farmer's Market season is here in a big way. We've been doing three per week, which we're starting to think is too much! Along with our other ventures, it makes for an insanely busy schedule...

The above photo was the first summer Market of the season, in Livingston 6/5, obviously before the heat wave hit!

This one is the Gallatin Farmer's Market, which takes place in the ice pavilion at the Fairgrounds. Well, there are outside booths also, but we gladly moved indoors after the first season we did it, which is getting to be going on a long time now. Hmmm, seven years I believe...?

We had that one again this morning, which requires getting up at 5:00 AM on Saturdays. We know other vendors who drive over from the Shields, which would require getting up at least an hour earlier than we do!

And then we've been up later than usual lately. Had a photographer out two evenings back, shooting photos for the Community Food Co-op, where we've been lucky enough to get a 4% Grant. Of course the best lighting around here is at or near sunset, which makes for long days!

And now, just this evening, had a videographer out. We're doing an informational video for BiOmega3, as well as a Kickstarter video.

So although I've been farming my entire life, this evening was the first time I've ever driven tractor "on camera"! Some ironies there; driving a 70's tractor and being digitally filmed. Plus the horses happened to be in that field also, and seemed to enjoy being on camera! In fact you'd have almost thought it was scripted, but no...

So with that, I believe I'll call it a day, and even a month. See you in July...

 

 
5/31/12

It's raining again in the Gallatin, the Valley of the Flowers! Well, sprinkling anyway.

Which has been the norm lately, except for this morning, when I should have taken photos. It was gorgeous, and you could almost hear things growing!

I joke about that, but in our former farming life up on the Hi-Line, one similarly gorgeous evening we went out scouting, including a field of mustard that you could actually hear growing. The seed pods were filling, a bazillion little explosions.

Which incredibly enough, is happening with the camelina above!! I just took that photo this afternoon, alas after the sky had turned grey. Still...

Unfortunately we don't have hundreds (or thousands?) of acres of it at that stage. That's actually a "test plot", maybe even the second generation of one.

I'd seeded that field to camelina in the fall of 2010. Plant breeders laugh at the idea, and camelina is not supposed to be a winter crop, but some farmers I know have had decent luck with late-fall seeded camelina.

I didn't, though. It didn't come through very well at all, so I re-seeded it, not quite this late last spring. It didn't do very well, no big surprise. Kinda surprisingly, it volunteered back in places this spring, and although most of that field will be summerfallow this year, I left a patch of the best stuff, which was already blooming when I plowed, a week or so back. And now, it's forming seed pods already!!

That's kind of incredible, compared to the stuff we've seeded this spring, more or less on time for a change.

Although... that stuff above is getting ready to explode. I'm probably too deaf to hear it anymore, but when camelina gets to that point, in a span of days (or maybe even hours), it literally explodes in growth. Canopies and takes over!

We're discovering more about camelina's weed competition capabilities all the time. One slightly strange thing; I did some germination tests this spring, which is always wise before seeding. You just put some seed into damp paper towels, put 'em in a baggie, and within a few days, hopefully most of them sprout. And if you're in a hurry, you can even add a bit of hydrogen peroxide, which remarkably hastens the process.

So I did a couple samples of camelina, and one of barley. Put them all in the same bag. The camelina completely stopped the barley from germinating. It swelled up, but no sprouts.

So I did a separate one with just barley, and viola...! It germinated just fine.

So we should be able to get grant money for this sort of thing! And kind of have, although not for that...

Besides a bit of golden flax, we also planted wheat, which is what I was hauling with the '52 in the photo above. Another neighbor, who we're buying a bin of very good oil content camelina from, was just pulling out with a near one-of-a-kind load of organic beardless winter wheat, raised by oilpress partner Brian, at right. At least their trucks are newer than mine!

Luckily we finished seeding, and plowing summerfallow before the monsoon season hit. In fact the weather has been all but perfect, except for photography!

I just dumped 1.75" out of the rain gauge, plus we've had another up there in the inch range, and several quarter to half, in fact we're right up there with anywhere in the state! So are we going to set any records here on the Rockpile this year?!

We'll see. At least the wheat is seeded into stuff where we plowed down a good stand of clover last year, a significant nitrogen boost which the Rockpile all but hasn't ever had.

Except in the photo above, we're experimenting with using camelina meal as a natural fertilizer. My air seeder won't feed it, as it tends to bridge up. A few folks have experimented with spreading it with various types of spreaders. Again, there appears to be some weed suppression going on, and...

Fortunately, 40's disc drills feed it just fine. Not that I'm going back to doing that on any scale, in fact the very idea makes me shudder... Still, in some ways they never improved the technology. And those tractors didn't even have auto-steer, although in its day ('67) that tractor was actually kind of high-tech. It's been in the neighborhood here since it was new, my now ex-neighbor overhauled it a few years back, & knock wood...

Fortunately it'll be a few weeks before I'm driving it again, haying, so in the meanwhile we can keep after our marketing campaign . At least that's partly digital! Plus Farmers Market season will be back shortly. I far prefer the direct-marketed model, which in some ways is what the old-timers did!

Just think if they'd had e-commerce capabilities!!

Which I fought with all last weekend, but no sense going there now. Except never try to do that with 1&1, which I now call 4&20.

But we expect that to fall together in June also, and can't really complain about May, and it's still sprinkling. Hmm, is there an option where you can "like" a month on Facebook?

 

 

 
4/30/12

April has certainly been an interesting month. As I often mention, farming just isn't dull at all anymore, at least in our case. It's been a bit of a marathon lately though, and at the moment I am suffering fatigue, so please bear with...

Last week was a sprint; getting our air seeder set up for seeding camelina. Maybe it's just because I'm pushing 55, but wrestling a bunch of heavy stuff around kicked my ass. And then we seeded inbetween storms, some quite brief opportunities. But of course we never complain about rain in Montana! And then we had a 3-day booth at the new Montana Farm and Ranch Show here in Bozeman this past Friday-Sunday, as well as the last Winter Farmers' Market of the season Saturday morning. We've pulled off having a booth at two events simultaneously a few times previously, but it's definitely a project.

We're glad we did, though. Besides good turnout and sales, we made some more small-world contacts that will likely prove beneficial.

Backing up, though, early in the month we made a run up to our old Hi-Line haunts, picking up a seed cleaner among other things.

A relative had tore down the old Cargill elevator in Conrad, and so we now have a drastically higher-capacity seed cleaner. It needs a little work, but once that's completed we'll be spending a lot less time cleaning seed.

Plus I've been looking for a set of mounted harrows for quite a while. Those used to be common, back before most everyone went no-till. In fact after most everyone started spraying instead of plowing, I could have bought all kinds of them for next to nothing at auctions. I'd decided some time back they'd still be just the ticket for organic farming here on the Rockpile Ranch, though, and then... couldn't find any. Not cheap, anyway. I ran an ad in the Billings Gazette a couple winters back, and only got one call, from a guy who wanted $4800 for a set. At the auctions I mentioned, I could have bought all kinds of them for a couple hundred bucks, which fits vastly better with the tightwad model.

So, I had some prospects tentatively lined up with former neighbors up in Napi's Country, except after sorting through some amazing collections, it turned out theirs were pretty much junk. I toured a couple implement dealer lots, but again, these things are pretty much "obsolete", except in our case. So among a few other prospects, the next morning I gave Huggy Bear Hughes a call. He's a former implement dealer in Cut Bank, who instead of retiring still runs a fairly substantial farm equipment consignment/appraisal business. No big surprise, he'd just had some harrows listed the day before, which almost couldn't have been handier, at the Benjamin place just five miles east of Shelby, where I'd spent the night.

More than that, it turns out they're fellow organics! We also made some good connections with that crowd at the Farm and Ranch Show this past weekend.

So I know, the above photo isn't that great, but at least you can see what mounted harrows look like. Those spring teeth are just the ticket here on the Rockpile, as they flex around the rocks just fine, and also work superbly for a light harrowing to incorporate camelina and clover seed.

Plus they help to prepare a good seedbed and get a better weed kill when pre-plant plowing. Of course, most farmers don't do that anymore. They spray, and then no-till seed. I did that myself quite a bit back in the day, in fact before it got popular. As I've mentioned, I'm over that now, in fact we've been chemical-free here on the Rockpile for going on eight years now.

The above photo was when we started pre-plant plowing on April 9. As usual, I was struck with the contrast across the fence, where cost is no object. They spent a pile of money that day, topdressing winter wheat with petroleum-based fertilizer, spraying and seeding spring crops with more fertilizer and...

I got a newsletter a while back predicting that wheat prices this year won't be quite break-even for conventional (make that industrial) agriculture. I just don't miss writing those big checks for chemicals and fertilizer at all!! In fact I'm getting to be more of a fan of interseeding clover all the time. With our camelina, we interseed about a pound and a half of red clover per acre. That costs a little over two bucks per acre!! Versus chemicals and fertilizer that runs...

I don't even know anymore. Somewhere up in the $75/acre range. Ag expenses have gone through the ceiling, not to mention machinery costs ($300,000 for a sprayer!!?). So no, I'm more enthused with this organic model all the time, and guess what? When you meet fellow organics, there is a connection on far more than a superficial level. There's an exchange of information, but far beyond that, there's an instant sense of "community". We've long commented how the Farmers' Market crowd is a vibrant community that we're proud to be part of. The enthusiasm for this only continues to grow, and with farmers who've made the transition, I'd say there's a fairly deep connection.

So even though it's approaching bedtime, and my earlier primary sensation was fatigue, I'm even enthused again. So we'll get the rest of the crop squeaked in between storms, keep up our marketing campaign, and even have fun! Nope, farming's just not dull at all anymore...

 

 

 

 
3/31/12

Here it is the end of March already, and I swear, it almost feels like June out there! Well into May, anyway, as it's pushing 70 here going on 6:00 PM.

So, I should be out there plowing! And have given that serious consideration, at least until a day or so ago when I went out there with a shovel and ascertained it's still mud around here. Or at least was, but now...

Except it's going to rain tonight, so plowing right now would be stupid, even if it would set a personal record for "early" springs.

But no, instead we had a Farmer's Market today.

It started off kinda slow, as you can see above, but picked up nicely toward the end. That's when my wife Kim, at right in our booth above won't let me leave for photography, and I don't blame her.

That next photo is from the other end of the Emerson Ballroom, home of the Bozeman Winter Farmers Market, possibly the most challenging photography spot known!! So I can't help but mention those two photos above don't even utilize auxiliary flash, and although some long-time, faithful repeat customers are blurred (if they were moving), these digital cameras might be OK after all.

Speaking of early springs, though, it's certainly acting like one out there. Plus of course, camelina lends itself to early seeding, is very cold tolerant (assuming we're not quite done with that yet), matures early and...

So that's mainly what I'm leaning toward seeding this spring, the sooner the better. Oh, we'll seed a little wheat and barley also, and probably some mustard and of course we're interseeding red clover with most everything, although also using camelina meal as a natural fertilizer with some of it, and it should be interesting...

So at least we have the tractor fired up, and are making a run to the Hi-Line next week, picking up organic clover seed, a decent-sized seed cleaner we'd stumbled into via the usual small-world connections, plus some machinery items we've been looking for, for years, recently discovered under the same circumstances, part of some amazing collections in our old haunts, so that should also be fun!

So although as usual, we didn't lack for things to do in March, at least it wasn't utter madness, unlike some years. Our oil pressing upgrades are coming together, we're going to get our crops seeded perhaps record early (knock wood...!), and it's going to keep raining regularly, right?

So with that, I believe I'll call March a month, and let spring fever fully kick into gear!

 

 

 
2/29/12

Leap years are a good thing, there's little doubt around here. We could certainly stand the extra day this February, not least because writing a Telegraph didn't dawn on me until this morning. If February had ended yesterday, I assume this would have occurred to me in time, but I'd have missed a meeting.

As I am right now, or will be shortly. No question, not least because we just had what almost passed for a blizzard, or at least a snowstorm around here, a rarity of late.

Antiques in Action

In fact even the above photo isn't exactly representative, as the snow has all but been gone most of the time.

At least until a few minutes ago, when a cold front passed through! Late afternoon, there were wild cloud formations surging around the Bridgers, from multiple directions! I should have taken pictures, although video could have been noteworthy. Maybe not like tornados, but still...

And then the snow hit, temps dropped, and we stoked the fire.

Firewood, temporary art!

Except now, chores and a brief bit of writing later, not even sunset yet, all that is over, it seems! Good grief, the sun's not out, but...

This really is the "Valley of the Flowers". In fact in recent days a fella could have almost seeded camelina, at least if you weren't averse to giving things a shot of Roundup first.

We're organic, though, so need to plow first, and luckily that's still out of the question! I kinda suspect we could have an early spring, though, vastly different from last year.

So, in a year like this (might be), I'd think an early seeded, tough and tolerant low input quick maturing crop might not be a bad idea. Especially if you press the seed into a healthy, moreso all the time we're learning, Omega-3 supplement.

Good grief, you'd think I have spring fever or something, except I haven't even been skiing yet!! And am beginning to wonder... My private ski resort, here in the backyard... seems to be one extreme or the other; bare ground or near-suicidal avalanche danger.

So we tend to just stay home and work, barring the odd meeting. And thankfully besides computers and such, actually got somewhere with an ongoing project or two.

Splitting Firewood and welding

Our oil pressing operation has always been kinda semi-portable, running it off various tractor PTO's. Finally we're moving it "indoors", though, and after great deliberation, running it off a biofuel power source.

The Oil Press is Inside!

So that will be interesting, and maybe even fun! Plus our packaging and sundry other issues seem to have sorted, so we're back on marketing track, and...

But as mentioned, if we're not at the computer or on the phone, working or (as of late) welding, eating or sleeping, we seem to be at meetings! At least the one I'm missing right now is about motorized use on the Gallatin National Forest, in this case the Gallatin crest, some familiar country I used to frequent, on foot or horseback.

So this is better, as I try to stick to non-controversial things like buffalo!!

One very interesting meeting we had on that topic this past Friday was when the Interagency Bison Management "Plan" partners responded to the Citizen Working Group answers to their 34 questions about our recommendations, arrived at through a year-long series of (usually all-day) meetings of an extremely diverse working group, open to anyone who would commit to participating.

We'd presented these recommendations back in December (scroll down, and I will get around to archiving prior months one of these days...). As mentioned, the partners responded with a lengthy list of questions, which at yet another meeting, earlier in the month, we met and came up with answers to. Mostly...

That was another all-day meeting, in fact early on we established we only had something like twelve minutes per question if we were going to get them all answered. We ran up toward twenty minutes or more on some of the more contentious issues, like whether we should go with large-scale wildlife vaccination and immunocontraception campaigns (except skunks!!), or concentrate on the risk factors we actually have some "control" over.

But we got 'er done, although didn't reach total consensus on a few items. Still, for as mentioned, an extremely diverse group, including representatives from the Montana Stockgrowers, we didn't do too bad.

Luckily at the meeting Friday, the Chronicle reporter left before things went kinda haywire, so her report was very positive. And now there's some new developments, although they don't go nearly as far as the Citizen Working Group recommendations, possibly because this goes before a judge in Livingston tomorrow, but if you don't watch TV you have to do something for entertainment!

 

 

 
1/31/12

Gotta admit, this one almost snuck on up me! Oh, I knew it was the end of the month, but somehow the Telegraph hadn't made it onto the list. But now it's still only 3:00 or slightly thereafter, and next up is perhaps an extremely interesting project.

So this Telegraph is going to be shorter than normal! Not least because we have next to no photos, tsk!

Luckily, most if not all of the issues I mentioned last month have more or less sorted out. Or at least still might, yet today, and if not, I'd think not long into February...

This "bottle denting" issue we inexplicably ran into, when shipping down to where the pressure is higher, in more ways than one (hah!), we find works in the opposite direction also. In fact back before someone came up with this obvious solution, we're told even potato chip bags first exploded when sent across the divide! hahahahaha...

But now we also recently learned this common compound that makes up ~80% of the air you breathe (unless of course you're once again at high elevation, and then who knows...?), when compressed into bottles comes at way higher pressure than we've encountered before, but what else is new?!

Luckily someone invented pressure regulators, which fortunately still work in many cases, and we'll find out again here shortly. At least we're incredibly grateful, and still slightly amazed at near-invaluable advice we've received, and yes, it remains a small world in many ways.

That's commonly encountered at the Farmers Markets, and we're glad the Winter one is going again, even if the Emerson ballroom is one of the more challenging photography spots I've ran into, and the few times the media have shown up, they tend to bring auxilary studio lighting. That would be overkill in our case, though...

But, speaking of markets, the camelina oil market has been decent today, in fact I need to get to bottling! Except this next session promises to be more interesting than usual, although we're told the pressure equalizes rapidly, so I don't think you'll hear any loud bangs out this way.

So I know, I should be filming it & putting it on YouTube, where you can "broadcast yourself". Especially if we got loud bangs and explosions, we could get great ratings! All the same, I'm also told that doesn't happen, so need to go find out...

 

 

 

 

 
12/31/11

Good Grief, 2011 is over already?!

Well, we still have another fifteen minutes or so of sunshine. It still looks more like possibly October out there, and until last night we didn't even have any snow to speak of. But then it rained!!

We recall it raining once before during the Holidays, that time on New Year's Eve back in about '80 or thereabouts. Similar mild year, we were having a back-yard barbecue party, which got crowded once it moved indoors.

At least last night the rain finally turned white. Only a dusting down here, but at least Bridger Bowl finally got almost a foot, nearly doubling their snowpack!

Here on the west slope of the Bridgers, there hasn't been nearly enough snow to even consider going cross-country skiing, somewhat to my dismay. In fact we went for a hike Christmas Day.

We've also been horseback riding a few times. No expeditions, just here on the farm. In fact Cody came home with a new horse a few evenings back. We've kinda been looking, & he came across this not-quite-four year old Andalusion/Paint cross mare. Andalusions are interesting, they were the preferred "war horse" for European royalty back in the day, at least until the armor got really heavy and they went to draft horses.

Fortunately this one was owned by a horseshoer, so is completely used to that, and has also seen quite a bit of mountain use for her age, including packing deer and elk. Completely calm, steps out nice and smooth...

The above photo was right before I took her for our first ride yesterday. She wasn't too crazy about leaving her newfound pals, although mostly cooperated. She far prefers them to the prior arrangement, where a more dominant mare was bullying her, resulting in a near-starvation diet.

That's not the case here, in fact the boys are utterly smitten, and will even share their camelina concentrate/winter wheat dessert with her, previously unheard of. We're still amazed at the amount of height, and size in general Buddy put on after he arrived here at age five, and kinda expect the same thing again.

For these end-of-the-year columns, I've stuck with the Prediction Theme, versus reviews and Best & Worst of lists for quite a while now.

This year, we could have quite a striking list though, which is tempting. Still, complaining is near-useless at this point, and I far prefer to end things on a positive note. Just briefly, though, I have to touch on a few things that went on in December, if for no other reason than that's what I mainly have new photos of!

We're largely out of the buffalo business, although have a neighbor with a few, & skinned one a while back, causing flashbacks.

As you can see Molly is absolutely thrilled! So are the chickens...

I used to joke that skinning buffalo paid better than anything else I'd done except for farming in the '70's, although it wasn't really a joke.

So now we're working at getting BiOmega3 to that point, which certainly wasn't dull in December!

We're developing labels for a line of new products, when ongoing trademark issues resurrected themselves. Luckily it looks like they'll sort out, but not before we found there's no trademark lawyers in Montana up for this, and even good referrals in Vegas deferred to more qualified associates, but luckily free (and accurate) advice was eventually forthcoming, from Arkansas of all places! Well, there's still another option or two in the works also, so as usual, we'll see. At least now we know all the "competition" have had their trademarks denied!

But then of course like a lot of things anymore, our oil bottles come from China. And, they've gotten noticeably thinner, just in the last year or so. In profound ironies, now we're shipping some oil to China, and apparently the pressure differences between here and sea level cause the bottles to contract slightly, or dent. Obviously, this isn't limited to just China! We thought bottling the oil at cold temperatures might take care of it, but no. Somewhere there still have to be decent food-grade recyclable bottles that aren't a fraction of their former thickness, and so if you know about that, let us know...

Plus we ran into an apparent global shortage of induction foil seals, which we use on the aforementioned bottles. Strangely, mainly just in that size, so someone in China must have misplaced the die or something! Luckily that sorted out also, but not before we just almost ran out of seals.

So school has been in full session. No Christmas Breaks around here...

But again, I need to catch myself... I well know by now, and completely understand that complaining around here remains almost useless!

So, getting back to this prediction theme...

Some are saying that 2012 will be a landmark year, maybe even the end of time. I far prefer local writer Alan Kesselheim's take in the article linked above. The ancient Mayan civilization had some pretty amazing calendars, and they were quite sure 2012 would be the end of one era, and the beginning of another. Of course, no one knows the day or the hour of such things, but I kinda think they may be right. There's some changes coming down the pike... Maybe some big ones.

Perhaps growing up farming in "Next Year Country", up in northern Montana, somewhat surrounded by pessimists instilled this eternal optimism, but I'll take our chances. The healthy, "locally produced" food model continues to take hold in a big way, and who knows...

If the Mayans are right, that could turn real important. Even if not, I'm still optimistic for 2012. It always beats alternatives...

Happy New Year!

 

 

 
11/30/11

See update below...

 

 
11/29/11

Holy cow! We're a full day ahead of schedule here!!

Although I tend to leave things until the last moment, it's not just because I seem to work best "under pressure". The schedule overflows with some regularity, but along with numerous other deadlines (there has to be a better word...) I've managed to get out a Moccasin Telegraph by month's end for a long time now. A wholly different model than constant tweeting, I know, but still...

I can't leave this one till the last minute (in case we don't make it back over the pass!), even though tomorrow promises to possibly be the most fun and certainly interesting day all month! The Citizen Working Group is presenting our suggestions to be Interagency Bison Management Plan partners, at one of their two annual meetings at Chico Hot Springs.

So although I'd sworn off going over Bozeman Pass in snowstorms, I'm not missing that one! We got in a wreck a couple of years ago, heading over to participate in the Park County Christmas Fair, which ahem..., we're doing again this weekend, although luckily the weather man says it'll be better by then. Plus he's been consistently wrong lately, so we'll see about tomorrow...

At least the accomodations at Chico are way nicer than the cabin in the photo above!

It's at an old homestead, here in the Valley of the Flowers, where there's a bin of camelina we're buying.

At least the view out that window is hard to beat, and frankly, hasn't changed that much.

Beyond that, the accomodations at Chico are a bit nicer, although gotta admit, I find these old places intriguing.

We're not even taking swimsuits, let alone staying there this time. One of the things I didn't mention last month was that Kim and I spent our 27th out of 29 anniversaries there, so you could say it's a favorite, and so I guess if you have to spend tax dollars on accomodations, twice per year, you could do worse!

In fact I'm really looking forward to tomorrow. Incredibly enough, it's mainly the members of this working group representing the Montana Stockgrowers who are presenting our suggestions to the IBMP partners. We all agreed that would likely have the most significant impact, and so conscripted them to this task, and I tell ya...

We're presenting common-sense, win/win suggestions, same as we've done for quite a while now. Arrived at by an incredibly diverse citizen working group, open to anyone who would commit to participating, through a slightly extended series of meetings, that frankly I wouldn't have missed for anything!

<update!>

Praise the Lord, the weather man was wrong yet again!! It didn't even snow going over Bozeman Pass coming or going. Except coming home, just as we hit the bottom of the pass, where one inevitably gets caught in clusters of semi's, it finally started snowing. Minimally, really...

But at Chico, well... you'd have thought a rainbow ended there today, and I even saw a bit of blue sky (and even got cell reception!) while outside briefly.

It might have been the best meeting I've been at, or at least certainly in the top handful! So watch the news, at least the local NBC outlet was there.

 

 

 

 

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