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TBF 142 :: This Farmer Has Questions, Cattle Sold, and a Hard Lesson Learned


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vinegarquestionsOur farm has been a farm for eight years now, which I suppose means I have been a farmer for eight years as well. But, I don’t want anyone to think that I’m still not “The Beginning Farmer” … sometimes it seems the more I learn about this farming art the more I feel like a beginner! With that in mind I’ve always tried my best to share the ups and downs because I know that I learn from my mistakes, so hopefully someone else can learn from them as well. Along the way (over almost 10 years of blogging/podcasting) you all have come along side and shared your experiences as well! That is why I knew that I could turn the tables a little bit and ask you the questions …

:: Five Questions From a Beginning Farmer ::

  1. I want some concrete! Should I feel bad about that as a grass-based farmer?
  2. What can I plant this fall for my pig pastures next spring?
  3. Maybe it is finally time for turkey. How can I raise them without losing my mind?
  4. Should we invest in a walk-in freezer?
  5. What would you like to see from “The Beginning Farmer Show”?

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As always, I want to thank you so much for listening and supporting the show with your encouragement and reviews on iTunes! I am continually working to produce a better show, and I’m thankful for all of the listeners sticking with me as I learn.

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I would love to hear your questions, show ideas, or comments about the show. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail! As always you can follow along with “The Beginning Farmer” and Crooked Gap Farm by checking out these links …

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{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Ed September 20, 2016, 11:53 pm

    As someone who is now 5 months in to the beginning farmer journey..
    1) Should we feel bad for wanting concrete in places?
    As someone who’s received 5″+ within a couple hours, multiple times this year.. I don’t feel bad about wanting concrete in a few spots. It’s all about trying to keep strategic control of water. Rolling hills certainly can help keep water moving and I can avoid putting things in the crevices.

    2) What can I plant this fall for my pig pastures next spring?
    I’d love to see more as well, as we’re going to convert 4 1/2 acres that have never been cover cropped before. We were going to use a general horse pasture mix due to its general availability. Any other listeners with advice for us as well, you’re ok in my book.

    3) How can I raise turkeys without losing my mind?
    Convince your neighbor they really want Turkeys and that you’d pay them for the feed 😉

    4) Should we invest in a walk-in freezer?
    Walk-ins are nice until you have a time where you’re constantly going in and out.. like a Farm Crawl event. Remember, try and get a order sheet out for Farm Crawl people to look at so that we’re not all staring off in to space once we’re on your doorstep. Back on topic, have you seen many farmers around you using these CoolBots to convert window A/C units to refrigerated areas? I’m not sure if some people put their freezers inside and just keep the main space in the low 60s? Or would this be a bad idea?

    5) What would you like to see from “The Beginning Farmer Show”?
    Now that you’ve had 8+ years of mistakes to learn from.. perhaps some quick videos giving a run down of opportunities? For the hog trailer you could sum it up to, checking latches, checking boards.. yearly maintenance, clean out ideas. Getting back to the basic tasks that you’ve done 1000 times and that are mundane but someone who hasn’t done them could learn from.

    I’d also love to see a place where farms can show off their promotional material with the intention of helping each other step up their marketing / brand. A ‘farms of America’ version of ‘Humans of New York’?

  • Rich September 21, 2016, 10:57 pm

    I don’t get as much mud as a lot of people get, but I really hate dealing with mud. Most of the mud I deal with is the rutted sloppy muddy roads you get when you drive tractors back and forth feeding hay over the winter. I was able to fix my mud problems with a bunch of rocks thrown in the deeper holes (ranging from fist-sized to hurt-your-back-picking-up ones), a layer of gravel over the rocks, a little grading, and a lot of driving back and forth to pack everything down.

    If it takes a little concrete to keep your pigs out of the mud, I think it would be worth the effort and the pigs would appreciate it.

    I’m not sure about what type of forage pigs will eat, but you might try something like turnips or winter rye (not the same as ryegrass). I’ve tried drilling few acres of a mix of oats and turnips in early spring that didn’t really work as well as I thought it should (I think the turnips were drilled too deep), I’ve broadcast a mix of oats and turnips in a garden-sized plot that did great, and I’ve broadcast turnips in the fall into a small plot of winter wheat that grew a lot of forage and turnips.

    I’d suggest experimenting with whatever is cheap and easily available like oats, turnips, wheat, winter rye, ryegrass, clover, etc.

  • Brandon September 25, 2016, 12:37 pm

    What would you like to see from “The Beginning Farmer Show”?
    There are 2 things: 1) I would like if you talked about the specifics (shelter, feed, maintenance) of raising chickens from start to finish(egg laying or meat). 2) What types of feed do you give your pigs and what quantities? 3)

  • Johnny R September 30, 2016, 8:44 am

    I was definitely going to suggest the coolbot. What a great idea. You can put a “cooler” up in a weekend. Did I mis-understand or do you really want a freezer, or both.
    Most produce only needs to be from 36-39 degrees Fahrenheit.


  • Daniel Brubaker September 30, 2016, 3:31 pm

    Hey Ethan.
    It is so great to have you back on a more regular basis. You’re totally right, listening to you and John are like talking with an old friend. Keep up the hard work.
    1. Concrete – Go for it. Why can’t you have a tiny bit of convenience in your life? You’re not talking about “paving paradise to put in a parking lot”.
    2. No clue, but eager to see/hear other folks suggestions
    3. We have a small farm and as of right now, I would call it a homestead because we aren’t selling anything, just getting the swing of raising protein for our family. This year we did try a few turkeys. I had always heard they were hard to raise, always trying to kill themselves, and stupid. I found that all that was completely wrong. We loved having them running around. We only did 2 birds. I had an extra John Suscovich chicken tractor and fence. So we let them out during the day and put them up at night. The fence kept them in…most of the time. Go for it.
    4. Will you save money on electricity? Or is it just convenience? If you will have some monthly savings and have the money available, why not. I think everyone would love to have one, but is cost prohibitive.
    5. The show – #1, you don’t need to change anything. The new “normal” podcast with some updates and hard lessen are just fine. It’s great to hear from you, so keep it up. If you want to add more to the cast, then here’s a couple ideas.
    a. How about a short segment from Caleb. It was always awesome to hear from him and the adventures/lessons of a young farmer. What’s going on with FFA/4H in his life, or the other kiddo’s. As a dad, it puts a smile on my face hearing from him.
    b. What’s up with the rest of the fam? I think Mrs. Book would have some great things to add. Especially her side of some of the hard lessons learned. “He’s such and idiot, but we love him.” –just kidding about the idiot, just thinking of what my wife would add to my stories.
    c. Youth Pastor/ Farmer- I know you are always learning lessons from the kids you pastor, what zingers did you learn? How do you or do you use your farm and experiences to help illustrations with the youth? I know some people just want farm stuff, but I think I’m probably not in the minority who have similar faith as you and would love to hear about it.

    Can’t wait for the next episode. Keep up the hard work!

    Brubaker Farms

  • Emma Dewhyte October 1, 2016, 11:41 am

    This is only my second or third podcast that I’ve listened to and I can’t help with the other 4 questions but I can give you a very long answer for your first question.

    Don’t feel guilty about concrete, we have severe mud problems at our farm and concrete has really helped. However, if you do pour concrete don’t skimp on cost and don’t pour somewhere that will become a nuisance in the future. Theres no point to pouring concrete if you just have to take it out in 3 years because its cracked or in the wrong location.

    Based on what you said in your podcast I’m going to assume you have never poured concrete before.
    Somethings you need to know before your pour concrete.
    You need to pour on compact ground, you can increase the structural integrity of concrete with rebar, and the more expensive and STRONGER concrete has a higher PSI.

    Make sure your pour on a solid foundation, don’t pour on mud and consider adding sand or gravel.

    Adding a rebar grid before your pour makes the concrete stronger. Cut rods of rebar the length and width of where you’re pouring. Lay them out in a grid, and tie the rods together where they cross using rebar ties.The squares in our rebar grids are 1 ft by 1 ft but that is overdoing it a little. Elevate the grid off the ground 1 – 2 inches by putting rocks or pieces of concrete under the rebar.

    When you buy the concrete check the PSI. Concrete is made of Sand, Cement, and Water. The more cement in your concrete the more expensive it is. However, the more cement, the stronger your concrete is.

    Finally make sure your concrete is at least 3 1/2 inches thick. If you’re going to be driving on it with a heavy tractor, make it 5 1/2 to 6 inches thick.

    Sorry for the super long comment. If you have any questions please feel free to ask or ask your concrete supplier.

  • Farren October 4, 2016, 8:26 pm

    1) Should you feel bad for wanting concrete? no, No, NO!!! The stress reduction is more than worth it. However, possibly the only thing worse than not having concrete where you need it is having bad concrete. Don’t skimp / do it right. Proper site prep, proper footings, proper re-bar, thick enough, etc. Do it wrong and you’ll have more stress than if you’d never done it.

    2) I can’t recommend what you should plant, but these guys can: greencoverseed.com. I’ve used their advice and their seed and was happy with both.

    3) No clue!

    4) No clue!

    5) Stories! You, sir, are an excellent story teller and that’s what I like most about your podcast. Information, education, instruction, advice, etc. is readily available on the Internet. Presenting those things in the form of a good story is extremely rare and that’s what you’ve got going for you. Keep telling stories — farming or otherwise!

    Thanks for asking!

  • Tim schlatter October 14, 2016, 10:01 am

    1. Concrete – Don’t worry about whether concrete “fits” into a pasture based system or not. Every farm is different, so the infrastructure will be as well. If you think you need some, put it in. Also, I like the idea of a good gravel/stone drive or staging area if well built. The concrete will definitely be nice for the pig area.

    2. One type of planting to consider would be sunchokes/Jerusalem artichokes. Plant them in the fall and let them grow. They are in the sunflower family with smallish flowers the pollinators like. The benefit for the pigs is that they produce nutritious tubers (also for people food). Unless the pigs find every tuber and piece of tuber they reseed themselves. I’ve also planted forage beets and turnips, as well as large radish varieties. Now I just need to finish the fence so I can put the pigs out there.

    3. I’ve been thinking of using an 8 x 16 x 8 turkey tractor next year.

    4. I would definitely consider the walk in freezer. Buy the panels from broke restaraunts or upgrading convenience stores. Use a Coolbot and a regular window air conditioner for the cooling system. Check out some of the vegetable grower podcasts for more information on the Coolbot.

    5. I would like to have you do even more shows. Don’t worry about having tons of ground breaking information on each show. That’s not necessary. It’s good just to hear from you. In addition, there are precious few shows on livestock. So it is good to hear from you. It’s also good to hear from your family. Have a great day!

  • George November 3, 2016, 2:11 pm

    Hello there,
    First, thank you for your engrossing podcasts/blog.
    I suppose I am not one of your target audience. I am a wannabe farmer who never ventured out of his big city abode. It is probably too late now.
    My answer to question 5: More of the same please.
    I do not follow your podcast regularly but I do listen in when I get time. Just curious – Why did you choose to continue keeping cows? I know you want a diversified farm but how do cows help you? Also, how did you arrive at the number of cows to keep?
    I sincerely hope you and your family will be happy at your farm despite all the hard lessons.


  • Randy November 4, 2016, 8:39 am

    First time listener was with your questions. I am looking into buying my own farm soon so this was an interesting podcast. I grew up on a farm so I have a bit of knowledge. I would say that concrete is not a bad thing, specially for a working area that can be cleaned regularly. Haven’t work with pigs so no answer for that one. As for the turkeys, that is easy. It is the same with every animal on the farm and that is to follow Pavlov’s Law. Basically, when you feed them something (specially something they like) call out to them. They learn your call means something good and when you have to call them in to roost each night or bring in the loose ones, they will come running. Watching 100 birds run across the farm to my grandfather’s call was always funny to watch. The walk-in Freezer, I would always choose that one. You could even go with the truck box coolers that you can take off the truck and place right outside the back door so they don’t take up barn space. As for the podcast, since it is my first show, I would say just to keep up the good work.

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