The Moccasin Telegraph
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
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.
Well, May has been interesting as usual, a basically
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 Massey. 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...
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
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!
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!!
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...
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
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...
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
Still, 2017 has been kinda OK so far...
Happy New Year!!
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.
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...
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...
Be careful out there!
Don't throw any cigarettes out the window...
We have a Red
Flag Warning for fire danger, calling for extreme
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...
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
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,
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...
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...?
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
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...
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
At least it snowed (and rained) a little bit last
night! I don't think I'm going backcountry skiing this afternoon,
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...!!!
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!
Good grief, actually missed putting up a Telegraph
last month. Literally the first time since back in the previous
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
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!
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
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
At least today we weren't unloading "new" commercial"
Unlike last week, but that almost pales in comparison
to figuring out how to convert a three-phase commercial oven
to single phase.
Gads, I could go on for hours aboutt 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
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....
What, the "dog days" of summer are
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
fire going at the moment, although wait, there's still remnants
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...
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
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
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....
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
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
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...
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!!
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
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
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...
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
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
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!!
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
Market over in Billings, earlier in the month. They're a
great outlet for our camelina
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
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
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...
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
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!!
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
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
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...
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
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
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
Happy New Year!
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
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
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
But then also had more recent flashbacks today, as we handled
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
So we should do OK with any zombies that might
show up tonight. Actually not concerned about that...
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
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
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...
Alas, we're pathetically short on photos for
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,
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
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!
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
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
At least we're not still harvesting with one of
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,
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
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?!!!
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
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
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
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,
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 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
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
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!!
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
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
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
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
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
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...
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
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
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 can be fun in February!
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
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
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...
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
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
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
So when thirteen's are lucky, must say I'm definitely
looking forward to '14.
Happy New Year!
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!
At least the only trick or treater we've had yet today was
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 veterinarian. 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
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 ran 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...
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
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
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
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!
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
winter wheat recently, and it's a bit over $14 per bushel!
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!
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
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,
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
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...
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)
So we'll see. If it proved to have a beneficial
effect on cancer suppression (which wouldn't surprise me even
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...
For many years of prior Telegraph columns, check out the
predecessor on our Cowboy