#14 Hoophouse Delivered: Help Wanted

Hoophouse Site

Last Saturday we received our 30’x48’ Zimmerman hoop house and guess what came along with it. Spring! Or so it seems. Since the delivery our low temperatures haven’t dipped below freezing and our highs have been in the mid 40’s and 50’s! What just a month ago felt like an impossible dream, to have our hoophouse up and running by mid April, now seems like reality. Dreaming of lettuces in spring, weeks of beautiful tomatoes, and a full 2-3 months added to the entire growing season!

If the weather holds, we’ll be leveling the site and tearing up sod this weekend. I’ll try to get all ground poles hammered in shortly after. Now the interesting part. To put up the hoops, the manual says “a loader or several men “ can do the job. I currently do not have a loader… or several men on the property. Therefore, if anyone (man or woman) is interested in helping assemble and/or set hoops on a Sunday in the near future, please send an email or give us a call!

We pay in mediocre, but cold, beer and mediocre, but hot, pizza (I apologize that it won’t be organic but rather from a local pizza place). From what I can tell, this isn’t exactly scientific engineering so having minimal experience is just fine. It is my hope that this will be a fun farm event that will enhance our operation and allow us to meet some people that might be interested in what we’re doing at Pine Grove Pastures.

While I doubt this will be necessary, I am going to cap the number of volunteers to the first 4-6 people. This is only because there won’t be enough jobs for more folks and I don’t want anyone to come out here and waste a beautiful day with nothing to do. That said, if you’d just like to stop out, see the farm and have some pizza, come on over!

If you like cold beer and hot pizza, come on out and let’s build a hoop house together!

Email pinegrovepastures@gmail.com or call 715-224-2395.


#13 Back and Better Than Ever

I’ll start off by apologizing to all six of our blog readers for no posts in the past month and a half. I know how much you all look forward to reading my incoherent drivel and hope you haven’t been too severely depressed:). Honestly, outside of planning, there just hasn’t been a whole lot going on around the farm the past two months. It’s a nice little break before the 2016 farming year truly begins.

Here’s a quick round up (that phrase sends shivers up my spine) of what’s been going on and what’s to come:

2015 Pastured Pork

We raised five heritage breed hogs this year, our first. While it was challenging at times (see blog post #2 Adventures in Pig Moving) it was actually a pleasure to work with these animals. Pigs are smart, personable, and just downright fun to be around. If only they didn’t produce bacon…

So far we’ve heard very good things about our pork and we couldn’t agree more. From a quality and taste standpoint, 2015 was a huge success! Economically, well that’s a bit of a different story. If you want the grisley details, you can see our Farm Report on our website http://www.pinegrovepastures.com/farm-report-1/. The good news is we’ve got a plan for next year to improve our pastures, forage, and pig setup to mitigate some of the costs involved in raising these outstanding animals, all while improving our product. I’m very confident and excited to get working with this year’s pigs.

We did keep Thin Lizzy, our most friendly and best formed pig to start our breeding stock. She’ll be bred very soon and with any luck, give birth to some terrific piglets come late spring.

Please contact us if interested in pastured pork for 2016.


Our microgreens have generated some very positive attention to our farm but they aren’t really taking off like we had hoped. It seems the people who like trying new things are really enjoying them but for a lot of folks, microgreens are just a bit out of their comfort zone. They are a unique product and most people we’ve talked with have never heard of them before; we’ll keep trying and we hope you do as well!


Sandy, our herd matriarch, is due to kid this week. She has a strong history of kidding twins and we’re excited for the first farm babies of 2016. Our younger does, Ling Ling and her daughter Gretchen aren’t due until late spring. We’ll keep you posted.

27th Annual MOSES Conference (Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service)

Friday and Saturday were spent in LaCrosse for the MOSES Organic Farming Conference. Attending workshops about pastured pigs and rabbits, plant diseases, cover crops, making compost, and selecting seeds for saving, I soaked up tons of valuable information for the upcoming season. Moreover, I have renewed confidence that the importance of organic agriculture is catching on with many consumers and conventional farmers alike. Besides receiving a first class education, I also met some really great people and had a four hour intense discussion with a few beginning farmers. We were just about to solve all the world’s problems when the last shuttle was about to leave for the night. I guess it’ll have to wait until next year.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

The 2016 planting season begins this week with spinach, kohlrabi, lettuce, onions, and leeks. I hope to have our hoophouse delivered and constructed in time to move the transplants into it before they completely engulf our home. We have a couple more spots open for this season. If you are interested in signing up for a share, contact us now; when we’re sold out, we’re out!

From here on I should be posting a new blog weekly so be sure to check in often to read about the happenings at Pine Grove Pastures. Thank you for your support!

- Matt

#12 The Coldman Cometh

The Coldman Cometh

We knew it couldn’t last forever; it appears the mild days of winter have passed and we are now prisoners in the icy grasp of the Coldman. Arctic air has settled over the Northwoods bringing us consecutive nights of -25, -18, and -2 degrees and have wreaked havoc on our water works here at the farm.

Saturday morning I noticed our drain pipes had frozen solid so we had to significantly limit our water use until I could chip out the ice in some areas and get the drain pipes thawed enough to keep the water moving. I managed to get that done just in time for us to shower and do a load of dishes before some friends came over for dinner.

Not a huge deal but the Coldman was definitely enjoying himself.

Sunday morning Krista informed me that we had no water coming out of the kitchen sink. I quickly checked the tub and bathroom sink and toilet water supply line and found no water moving anywhere. An excellent start to the day! After bundling up to head out for morning chores, I cranked the spigot in the heated pump room at the pressure tank and not a drip nor drop was provided. Sh*t!

The Coldman let out a fiendish laugh.

Water is a big deal. We obviously need it for drinking, cooking, washing, and flushing but on a farm there are more bodies depending on water than just ours. Pigs and goats need 15 gallons per day. Chickens, rabbits, and ducks need another 2, and our microgreens consume about 5 gallons per day. Add that to our human needs, at a minimum of 10 gallons per day (no showers, no washing clothes or dishes, and minimal flushing), and we’re looking at 32 gallons of water.

Luckily for us, we had some water stored. Our previous experience with pseudo off-the-grid living paid off big time. Living with no running water for nine months really gave us a sincere respect for how much water we use every day and what happens when there is no water on demand. This knowledge gave us the foresight to put up some water here at the farm, just in case.

The farmer nods with a slight smile to the Coldman. The Coldman scowls.

You might be thinking, just call a plumber and all will be well - but you’d be wrong. We called four plumbers today and couldn’t get a hold of any of them, likely they were/are inundated with other extreme cold water issues. We could drive into town and buy jugs of water from the grocery store, but at $1.50 per gallon that would cost us just under $50 per day for the bare minimum amount of water we need. Not something we want to spend our hard earned money on if we can help it.

We made it through the day having stored enough water for the plants, animals, and ourselves. I finally managed to thaw the main supply line to the pressure tank so we have water at the test spigot. Not ideal but it’s a start. I’ve also checked all the heat tape and insulation around our water lines and hope to have the lines thawed by tomorrow morning.

We’ll see who gets the last laugh: the farmer or the Coldman.

#11 Stuck in the Mud

stuck in the mud

When I was a kid, my sisters and I would beg my Dad to play “stuck in the mud” with us. It was a game he made up in which he would lay in the middle of our living room floor while we kids ran around him and tried to cross over him. If we got too close, he would grab an ankle, hand, or whatever he could and hold us there. It was then the other siblings' responsibility to try to free the captive from the “mud”. We would pull, push, try to distract, anything to get each other out (Sorry, Sarah, for that whole shoulder dislocation incident). It was loads of fun and we would be rolling in laughter at some of the positions we would get stuck in.

This morning I was stuck in the mud, for real, and there were no sisters to free me.  With the deluge of rain lately, the entire field where the pigs are kept is nothing but deep mud and standing water. The poor pigs were up to their bellies wading through the muck to get to their feed trough. To the pigs dismay and mine, the trough was tipped and half full of frozen mud this morning. You can imagine the enjoyable experience I had trying to pick my way through the sloppy mess to bust out the frozen mud in the feed trough. As I was walking back out of the pen, I could feel the force of the mud sucking my feet down, grabbing ankles, anything to hold me there. Without someone to push, pull or distract the mud from grabbing me, I struggled to keep moving. Then, disaster struck.

In a particularly deep and wet section my left foot went down until the mud was millimeters from going over the top of my boot. I froze in place for just a second while this was happening. It was just enough time for the mud to tighten it’s grip and not let go. As would often happen while playing “stuck in the mud” with dad, my foot came out of the mud but the boot stayed put.  I forgot to mention that I was carrying one of the troughs back with me and that extra bulky weight was enough to carry my momentum forward without my boot attached. Naturally, to avoid falling completely in the mud, I had to step my socked foot down 8 inches into it. The mud finally got me.

What’s worse than having your foot soaked and muddy is having to put that foot right back into your boot once you’ve freed it. Here’s a tip if this ever happens to you; take your sock off before replacing your foot into the boot. Learned this one the hard way… I finished out morning chores wet and muddy, grabbing a bunch of extra straw for the poor piggers to get them off of the mud at least while they sleep.

Being stuck in the mud this morning wasn’t nearly as much fun as when I was a kid, but it did bring back some great memories. If the rain continues like this, I’ll need to find some waders or some sisters in a hurry!


#10 Healthy Holiday Season

Imagine this:  You and your family survive the holiday season without illness. I know you’re thinking that sounds too good to be true, especially if you have kids like we do. With all the little snotty nosed cousins running around and your uncle Bill (whose hand washing practices have always been suspect) giving everyone a merry christmas handshake, your body stands very little chance of escaping exposure to a myriad of viruses. Then there’s the food being picked over all day and still sitting on the table 8 hours later... a paradise for bacteria! Couple this with lack of sleep, increased stress, and improper hydration (Wisconsinites- beer doesn’t count) and you’re looking at the perfect storm that could lay you up for half of January.

So, how are you going to avoid it? Simple. Quarantine. Stay locked in your house and don’t let anyone in or out for 4-6 weeks.

Happy Holidays,




As appealing as quarantine may sound to many of you, it’s probably unrealistic. In that case, the best defense is a good offense. By boosting your immune system before encountering germs you stand a much better chance of escaping unscathed. Think about a military battle. The attacking general usually holds the advantage of knowing when the attack will occur and therefore planning accordingly. It would be foolish of him to engage an enemy without having his troops well equipped and backup troops in position. Your body is no different and you are the commanding officer. Stock up on water before partaking in holiday spirits and eat highly nutritious foods leading up to the celebrations. This will help you in two ways. First, you won’t feel as guilty when you give in to the delicious treats surrounding you and second, your body will be primed to fight any microscopic invaders before they take the beachhead.

Here’s a short list of immunity boosting and nutrient dense foods:

Kale, Kefir, Yogurt, Garlic, Bone Broth, Shitake or Oyster Mushrooms, Liver, any true Fermented Foods, Avocado, Sweet Potatoes, Broccoli, Cabbage, Wheatgrass, Berries, Sprouts, and Microgreens.

* Keep in mind that the source of these foods matter so look for organic, grassfed, or pastured products.

It just so happens that Pine Grove Pastures’ Microgreens will be available beginning this week at Nelson’s County Market in Tomahawk and Golden Harvest in Rhinelander. How’s that for a shameless plug?

Seriously though, take care of yourself and your family this holiday season. With a little bit of forethought and a healthy diet you can avoid being sick and miserable and still enjoy the festivities.

Have a Healthy and Happy Holiday Season,


#9 Embracing the Cliché


Thanksgiving is nearly here and in that spirit, we at Pine Grove Pastures have much to be thankful for. The past year has been a huge transition for us. We moved to Tomahawk, converted a horse boarding farm into a small but productive diversified livestock and produce operation, and remodeled a large portion of our living structure (since house doesn’t describe it accurately). There have been an innumerable amount of hurdles, red tape, mental and physical challenges and a whole lot of work that’s been poured into establishing our farm and a bunch of folks who have helped us along the way.

The Tomahawk community: many of which we met through our public library's amazing Play and Learn program. Since our arrival we’ve felt welcomed and at home here. I can’t tell you how appreciative we are for the friends and acquaintances we’ve had the pleasure of meeting. You all have made the social transition for us and our kids an easy one.

Our farmer friends in the area: From acquiring livestock, hay, and straw to learning where to get feed and supplies, our farmer friends here have been exceptional. Thanks for the occasional emergency vet visits, use of machinery, and generosity in sharing your resources and knowledge. You have always been willing to help in any way, and we seriously could not have done this without you guys and gals. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I only hope to someday repay each of you for all your help.

Our inspirational friends: You guys know who you are (even if you live across the country). This is a special group of people that have known us through the duration of our journey and provided encouragement all along the way. For each of us there is a handful of people who truly shift our lives in paramount ways. You are the foundation on which our dream was conceived and built and you’ll always hold a special place in our brains (a heart is just a muscular organ).

Family and friends: Thank you for caring about what we are doing and supporting our work. It’s not always easy to see the big picture when you’re so close to it. While our decisions aren’t always popular, we are grateful that you’ve stuck with us through the twists and turns throughout this journey.

Lastly, all of the folks who have been sharing in our progress through our blog and on facebook. Although many of you aren’t in a location in which we can serve you, your support and willingness to share our stories with others is a HUGE benefit to our psyche and in reaching new people who might be future customers. Keep up the good work!

Sincerely, thank you to everyone who’s been a part of Pine Grove Pastures in our first year and in the past. It is our hope to pay forward the goodwill shown to us and continue to develop our business and our relationships with each of you. Have a great Thanksgiving holiday.


#8 Micromanagement

Hearing the word micromanagement makes me shudder. I can’t think of many things worse than working under a micromanager. Not only is it annoying but it’s the exact opposite of autonomy, something many of us have always desired. In fact, the lack of autonomy is one main reason I ditched my teaching background to become a farmer/grower. It’s nice not having a boss check in with me every few hours and it’s great making my own decisions. There are no excuses for not getting the job done here. If this business fails, it is because I’ve failed, if it succeeds, than I’ve succeeded. Man, that’s refreshing!

Luckily, I’m not writing about that kind of micromanagement today. I am writing about managing our microgreens. We’ve been putting our plan together for over a month now (and for those of you who know us well, that’s a REALLY long time for us) and our work is beginning to pay dividends. After planning, gearing up, growing, tasting, and getting the marketing packet put together, I hit the streets this past week with samples and information. Most of the people I spoke with were actually pretty open-minded and some were just as excited as I was at the potential to work together. The big question now is, how will the customers respond? Will Tomahawk and the surrounding area give microgreens a try? Will they be excited by the opportunity to buy a truly fresh, truly local product? Do they have the courage to step outside of their comfort zone and try something new? Have I provoked you sufficiently, yet?

For those of you who are local, our microgreens will be sold at Golden Harvest in Rhinelander and Nelson’s County Market in Tomahawk starting the week after Thanksgiving. Currently, I’m waiting to hear back from a few local restaurants; when they get back to me, I’ll update this post with the other places you can find our microgreens.

Although a humble beginning, this is the first major step in delivering our product to our community and getting our name out there.  Moreover, if I can properly micromanage our microgreens, I might just gain the autonomy that I’ve been seeking for years.


#7 Around the Farm

#7 Around the Farm

Here is a brief (maybe) overview of all that’s happening around the farm.

Darkness Falls:

I know I’m not alone in thinking this but the end of daylight saving time, for lack of a better word, sucks.  Adjusting to the perception of losing an hour of daylight is always a shock to the system. As a farmer, the lack of daylight in the winter months makes everything more difficult. Evening chores require additional lighting, field work becomes a weekend only job, and forget about tackling any larger outdoor projects, there just isn’t enough time to get it done without dragging out a bunch of extension cords and flood lights.

On the Monday following the changing of clocks, I was doing my normal evening chore routine. After milking our goats I filled up the feed and water pails for the pigs and opened the door to a pitch black abyss. Where did the the pig pasture go? I know that sounds kind of stupid, but when you move them every week it becomes an actual question, especially on a cloudy night after DLS. Being only slightly smarter than a 2x4, I elected not to trudge back to the workshop to find a head lamp, and proceeded to wander in the general direction I last remembered seeing our pigs. Pupils dilated to the extreme, my relatively good vision (for a human) discerned the vague outline of the feed trough. I dumped the feed in, poured the water over the top feeling pretty satisfied that I’d done a good job. Then the feed trough grunted and shook violently and my self satisfaction evaporated as quickly as it came. I had fed and watered the back of a pig, which looks remarkably like a half barrel style feeder in the damn dark!

I know the loss of daylight is inevitable this time of year in this part of the hemisphere but I’m not a fan of the sudden jolt experienced at the end of daylight saving.


Breeding season is on in goat world. Stinky bucks borrowed from our farmer friends have been visiting our girls and...tending to their needs. It’s really funny to watch the boys blubber all over themselves when they catch the sweet scent of a doe in heat. The downside to the rut season, besides the smell, is that soon we will be drying up our girls’ milk supply so they’ll be well rested and ready to feed their babies in early spring. Having access to our own fresh milk has really been an asset. We, and by we I mean Krista, have made many varieties of goat cheeses, ice cream, yogurt, kefir, and milk heavy desserts. The fresh milk will be sorely missed for a couple months.  Next year we’ll have more girls in milk and we should be able to freeze enough to hold us over the dry period.


Our meat chicken season officially wrapped up last weekend totalling 75 beautiful broilers in the freezer. For the first time in three years I was able to use a mechanized plucker and had an experienced hand to help me. A big thank you to Jared at Foxfire Farm for all his help and for the use of his hand-made plucker; it really did a great job and took away the most tedious part of the butchering process. The plan for next year is to expand our broiler operation to match the growing demand. If you’re interested in purchasing chickens from us in the future, please contact us soon to get on the list. We do have a limited production capacity in order to ensure the finest quality chicken. In addition, check out our Farm Report for a detailed cost breakdown, one of the ways of offering you complete transparency in everything we do.

Laying Hens:

Our laying flock consists of between 15-20 hens. They are free range so it’s difficult to do a head count. Did you know that “free range” actually means poop everywhere and eggs anywhere? It does. All of our feathered animals have taken a liking to the goats and despite having their own coop with nice roosts and nest boxes they choose to roost on the cross beams of the goat shelter (poop everywhere) and nest in the goats hay feeders and sleeping stalls (eggs anywhere). All of this means more work to clean up after them and time spent trying to find hidden eggs. The solution? I’ve decided that an addition is needed to the existing coop and the whole thing could use a remodel to entice the chickens to roost in one place, lay eggs in another, and get out of the quickly approaching cold of winter. We’ll see how this all plays out in the next few weeks.


We currently have eight ducks; 1 Pekin, 3 Runner/Pekin crosses, and four Muscovies. I don’t really have plans for them right now, they are just kind of fun to have around and they do a great job eating slugs and many other insects while fertilizing the property. I’m hoping to have some natural breeding in spring and looking forward to having hilarious ducklings running around again. Eventually we’d like to put a pond on the property and the ducks will have a great place to hang out and just be ducks.


The phrase “breeding like rabbits” and all of its variants is dead wrong according to our breeding trio of Silver Fox Rabbits. We’ve had very little success in getting our does pregnant despite repeated attempts. Next year there will be big changes to the rabbit setup. First and foremost we want to have them in a moveable pastured system. This will allow them to forage a larger variety of plants, get more exercise, and have increased exposure to sunlight that isn’t shining in from a window. All of these things should help them regain their mojo. Also, I think we’ll bring in at least one more buck and doe in case the issue is physiological rather than environmental. We’ve had quite a bit of interest from folks wanting to buy their own breeding rabbits so I’d like to get a better handle on the rabbit situation in 2016. If nothing else, our rabbits provide tons of excellent manure for our gardens. Most animal manure is considered “hot”, meaning it has high levels of nitrogen that can burn young plants. Therefore, it must be composted for a year before it can be used in the gardens. Not the case with rabbit manure. It’s gardening gold because it’s “cool” enough to be used immediately. It boosts soil fertility while diversifying the soil’s microbiology.

Guinea Fowl:

We only have two left and they’re getting a bit mean. Guinea’s are notoriously bad mothers and it’s difficult to keep the offspring alive with aggressive males harassing them. They do an exceptional job consuming many insects and are thought to eat ticks by the thousands. Not sure at this point if we’ll add more in the future or not.


Anybody who has signed up for this year’s hogs has good reason to smile. The pigs are developing really nicely. Great muscling in the haunches, back, and shoulders; these are some impressive looking animals. I’ve been moving them onto fresh pasture every week lately as they continue to turn the soil for next year’s garden space while rooting around and having a blast. I can’t explain it, but these pigs are a pleasure to work with and I always look forward to spending some time in the pig paddock. Again, if you’re interested in getting on next year’s pig list, please contact us as soon as you can to ensure your share of 2016 pastured pork.


This week we’ll be visiting with local restaurants and grocers about buying locally grown products and, specifically, our microgreens. We would really love to start developing relationships with local businesses to incorporate more locally produced items on their menu or on their shelves. There’s nothing out there that’s more fresh or has higher quality than what we can produce and deliver right here in our own community. We feel this is an underserved market in this area and as all the stories of mass-produced-food nightmares continue to unfold we are confident people will be demanding better options for themselves and their families. It is our hope that restaurant owners and grocers share the same sentiments and will jump at the chance to serve locally produced, highly nutritious, fantastic tasting, organically raised food to everyone in the community.

The 2016 CSA planting and planning has officially begun. A few weeks ago I planted out our spring crop of garlic and mulched it heavily. Although the pigs are doing a great job turning soil for us, I think the area we need worked is a bit too large for the pigs to manage on their own. We are working on getting someone in here with a tractor and harrow to work up some ground for next year’s market garden. The boys and I have been picking stones and raking up the old pig pastures to prepare them for next year’s plantings. More information on the 2016 CSA shares will be coming soon. Look for us to be participating in next year’s Tomahawk farmers market and possibly other markets in Merrill, Rhinelander, and/or Wausau.



#6 Transparency

#6 Transparency

When you buy those “vine-ripened” tomatoes for $.99/pound at the grocery store, do you know where that dollar is going? Who are you supporting with that dollar? What practices are you supporting? When you factor in the greenhouse space, water, labor, the trucking, the fuel consumption, does it really make sense that your tomato cost $.40?

When I was pregnant with our first son and we started making the switch to healthier foods, I had mixed emotions about “Organic”. What did it mean? Why was it so expensive? Wasn’t organic for food snobs and trendy old ladies who had disposable income coming out of their ears? Oh my, how far I have come in just a few short years. One of my biggest problems early on was that I was comparing the price of organic with the price of conventional. Why should I pay $4/pound for organic, pastured chicken when I can pay $1.25/pound for the “regular” stuff? Although I now know how many good answers there are to that question, everyone has to come to their own conclusion. My point here is that organic food can be considered expensive, while conventional food can be considered normal. But should it be this way?

Most small organic farmers don't have tons of big expensive equipment, they don't have thousands or even hundreds of acres of land, they don't use thousands of gallons of pesticides or herbicides or fertilizer to make their land productive. What we do have are hand tools, compost, diversity, and serious work ethic.

Doesn't it seem entirely backwards then, that big ag farm food is cheaper than small organic farm food? So why does organically produced food cost so much? Actually the question should really read, "Why is conventionally raised food so cheap?"

It is a well known-fact that Big Agriculture is heavily subsidized by our government. Anything you touch in an average grocery store that includes wheat, beef, corn, soy, and any of their bi-products has not been produced on a level playing field with their organically produced counterparts. It’s not always the case that these organic foods cost much more to grow or produce, but the prices for the “junk” foods are being artificially reduced by the government, either directly through the actual ingredient, or indirectly through the cost of animal feed. And because of this process, Americans have become out of touch with how much quality food actually costs to produce.

Sure, conventional food is now more affordable than ever... but at what cost to our environment and our health?

Because of the issues surrounding the price of organic food, it is our intention at Pine Grove Pastures to be entirely transparent regarding how much it costs to produce the food we grow and raise. Check out our "Farm Report "to see just where your local food dollar is going. And if you choose to buy organically raised food, know that you’re not just paying for a label.


#5 The Nostalgic Farmer

#5 The Nostalgic Farmer

As a history major and teacher by trade, I’ve always enjoyed comparing the present with the past. As a farmer/grower one of the the topics my mind frequently explores is the development of agriculture and commerce in general. It wasn’t long ago that if you needed something and couldn’t get it locally, you were out of luck.  Often this meant that small towns had people with a great diversity of skills. Carpenters, wheelwrights, wagoners, blacksmiths, candle makers, seamstresses, soldiers, millers, merchants, bar and inn keepers, and plenty of farmers working with a few animals and a few acres of land.

The beauty of this village system is that people depended on relationships with others. If you were good at what you did and folks trusted you, you’d have plenty of business. Typically, people were short on cash but good to their word, often paying with labor or trading services. Credit could only be established if your character and reputation warranted it which caused villagers to work hard, lead honest lives, and develop their community together.

Contrast the intimacy of the village with the anonymity of today’s bustling cities, the suburban areas surrounding them, and even true small towns. You won’t find very many people depending on one another. You also won’t find too many people whose character and reputation is known by anyone else. Sure people might think others are  “nice” or “friendly” but they have nothing more than a see-you-next-week relationship with them. The sad truth is that most of us have a better understanding of our smart devices than we do of the human beings around us. Our lives no longer depend on our character, our word means nothing, and collectively we fail at establishing relationships with others.

Many parts of modern life are amazing in their own respect but I think if we could utilize technology without losing our connection to each other, our society would be much stronger and people would lead more fulfilling lives. We at Pine Grove Pastures want to resurrect a piece of the village; the small farm. Our character and our reputation will be established over time and we’ll always be seeking those who want to develop a deeper relationship with their food and their farmers. Because food matters, and so do people.


#4 Looking Forward to 2016

#4 Looking Forward to 2016

With 2015 being our first year in operation as Pine Grove Pastures, we have many goals for the year to come. Each of these goals revolves around one main theme: bringing our community in closer contact with its food, because food matters. I wanted to write this post for two reasons: so that we have a public record of our goals, and so that our current and potential customers can get a feel for what we will be offering. Here goes:

  1. Offer a small number of CSA shares. Ultimately, we would like our CSA to be the backbone of our farm, what brings everyone together. We want to start very small in order to focus on high quality produce and to service our local customer base. Our pigs have been doing an excellent job of preparing our pastures for gardens. It is worth mentioning that our gardens will be planted in fields that are being converted from horse pasture - not crop land. But in order to keep up with the established CSA market, we will need to construct a makeshift greenhouse to extend the growing seasons by two weeks on each end. In the future, we hope to have enough income to construct a full greenhouse.

  2. Maintain a stand at the farmer’s market. Since we will be selling 5-6 CSA shares while planting enough for 10-11 shares, we hope to have extra produce. We would like to try our hand at the local farmer’s market with this produce and with our micro greens. This will allow us to introduce our products to a larger number of people in our community, and hopefully get our foot in the door for future relationships with locally-minded restaurants. We would love to supply a few local restaurants with seasonal produce and year-round micro greens so that their customers can benefit from something local and fresh on every plate.

  3. Implement a pasture-based grazing system. Currently, we have about 30 acres of fenced pasture... 1 of which is being used. What a waste! But if you haven’t heard, animals are expensive. The good news is that once we have enough cash and customers who are interested in buying local, organic, pastured meat, our property has tremendous potential for the symbiotic rotation of livestock. Although I don’t know nearly as much as Matt does about the logistics, it seems simple to me. The goats come in to eat the weedy, “undesirable” plants, then the cows come in to graze the grasses, and finally the chickens and other bug eaters come in to scratch up the waste. Great in theory, but we’ll need to get all fences up and running, a system in place for moving the animals between pastures, a central location for water and shelter...this may be a multi-year goal.

  4. Expand our pastured-meat operation. While we’ve noticed that local meat isn’t necessarily hard to come by, clean meat is a bit tricky. Whenever possible, we want the meat that we put into our bodies and feed our children to be free of chemicals, genetically-modified organisms, antibiotics, hormones, and unnecessary grains. So we could stick to extremely expensive certified organic meat from the grocery store. But we also want our meat-eating habits to have as little impact on the environment as possible, and still allow the animals we eat to lead decent lives. So it might not be the best economic decision we could make, but we want to expand our pastured-meat operation so that we can provide our family and our community’s families with truly clean meat. We will be working on making it easier for customers to know about and order what we have to offer. Check our website regularly for updates.

This is by no means a complete or static list. And while it seems a bit daunting, I look back at what we’ve accomplished since we moved to this 40 acre fixer-upper in February, and feel reassured. We have successfully started our own small dairy, raised five beautiful hogs, bred meat rabbits, raised and processed 60 broiler chickens, and experimented with many new vegetables. All of this while raising two young boys, working full time and part time jobs, and improving an extreme fixer-upper of a “house”. But the bones are good and we’ll keep at it. Have a great weekend.

#3 My First Time Milking

#3 My First Time Milking

If you’ve never milked a goat or cow by hand let me tell you how easy it is. Just grab and squeeze and the milk will floweth. Or it won’t. Re-grip, get in a positive state of mind and squeeze again. The goat will probably kick your arm away. Talk nicely to your goat, tell her how great she is and remember to squeeze from the top of the hand down with your fingers and watch out for the old “foot in the milk bucket” trick. That’s a favorite of theirs. Now go wash out your bucket, take a deep breath, and sit down to try it again, this time keeping one hand on the teat and the other on the bucket so you can quickly yank it away if she steps again. 

Refocus. Be gentle yet firm (what the hell does that mean anyway?) and give her a consistent squeeze. Oh look, a drop! You got a drop. Congratulations, you’ve achieved a minor victory but before you get too excited, remember she’s full of milk and if you don’t get it out she’ll develop mastitis and require medical attention. No pressure.

After 10 minutes of this she’ll be really, really upset with you and will huff and kick and stomp and dance to the edge of the stanchion while guarding herself from you, you insensitive hominid. At this point you should let her out to give her a break and you’ll need to go to the hospital to get your hand checked out after punching the wall. Assuming there’s no structural damage, try milking again in half an hour. This may continue for three or four days and at that point either the goat has won the battle and you’ll be calling the breeder to see if you can get your money back, or you’ll have won and be on your way to developing a mutually beneficial relationship with your goat.

This obviously isn't intended to be a how-to on milking goats but rather my experience the first time I tried it. I’m happy to say that I won the battle and I appreciate our Saanen, Sandy’s, patience with me. I’m also glad to report that after milking twice a day, every day, it is now as simple as grab and squeeze. The milk does floweth once you get the hang of it. Patience may be a virtue in life but it is a matter of survival on the farm.