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The Moccasin Telegraph


he 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.

5/29/17

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 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...

 

 
4/30/17

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!

 

 
3/31/17

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!!

 

 

 
3/1/17

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...

 
1/1/17

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!!

 

 
11/1/16

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...

 

 
9/30/16

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...

 

 

 

 

8/31/16

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...

 

 
7/31/16

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...

 

 

 
6/30-16

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...


 
4/30/16

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...?

 

 
3/31/16

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...

 

 
2/29/16

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...!!!

 

 
12/31/2015

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!

 

 
11/30/2015

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!

 

 
9/29/2015

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 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 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"...!

 

 
10/31/14

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 can 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, 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 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 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 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...

 


 
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/

 

 
     
 
 

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