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Putting permaculture to work

August 1, 2016

ram key.001

chick key.001

We are trying to mimic nature as much as possible here at the farm. It improves the biology of the soil, saves a bit of labor and saves on the purchased organic fertilizers. Nature never pulls out the chemicals or a rototiller or a tractor and everything grows like crazy.
We are working our gardens without tilling. We only plant one of our three gardens at a time and run sheep and chickens in the other gardens or plant cover crops during their off season. It means hoeing, mulching and tolerating some weeds. After the animals leave the garden we do not eat vegetables out of that garden for 120 days, as per organic guidelines, to give the manure time to break down.
Last winter’s garden was very successful but the spring brought in weed competition. That was after the 60 inches of rain from mid April to early June. The rain also made it impossible to bring in loads of mulch.
As you can see below, the winter squash is growing in the company of weeds, but the soil is so fertile that it can feed them both.
After another year, lots more mulch, another cover crop, and 200 more chickens, I hope I can report that it is running smoothly again.
IMG_5707

Putting permaculture to work

August 1, 2016

ram key.001

chick key.001

We are trying to mimic nature as much as possible here at the farm. It improves the biology of the soil, saves a bit of labor and saves on the purchased organic fertilizers. Nature never pulls out the chemicals or a rototiller or a tractor and everything grows like crazy.
We are working our gardens without tilling. We only plant one of our three gardens at a time and run sheep and chickens in the other gardens or plant cover crops during their off season. It means hoeing, mulching and tolerating some weeds. After the animals leave the garden we do not eat vegetables out of that garden for 120 days, as per organic guidelines, to give the manure time to break down.
Last winter’s garden was very successful but the spring brought in weed competition. That was after the 60 inches of rain from mid April to early June. The rain also made it impossible to bring in loads of mulch.
As you can see below, the winter squash is growing in the company of weeds, but the soil is so fertile that it can feed them both.
After another year, lots more mulch, another cover crop, and 200 more chickens, I hope I can report that it is running smoothly again.IMG_5707

I did not launder the money to import sheep from China. :)

July 13, 2016

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On Tuesday we were scheduled to pickup some Gulf Coast Native Sheep from Sassy Sheep in China, Tx. We are always trying to diversify our flocks and necessarily have to sell a few breeding sheep and buy a few replacements to prevent inbreeding.
I headed to the bank and picked up cash, the most trusted form of payment, on Monday afternoon.
When I got home we had an emergency. One of our ram lambs had been hurt and we had to do a daring rescue. I picked the little 40 pound boy up to take him back to his mother. He peed down my left leg. He peed a lot. That is no big deal, I have been a parent. We reunited him with his mother and I went to change clothes. I reached my hand in my left pocket and pulled out a roll of soaked paper money. We laid the bills out to dry.
On Tuesday we purchased 18 beautiful sheep and paid in the marked, but dry money. By the time we had loaded the sheep we all smelled like money–that money.
When your mother tells you to wash you hands after handling money, remember—-wash them.
The ram lamb is fine and we love the additions to our flock. Thank you Sassy Sheep and Beau-tanicals.

Venezuela–No Farms, No Food

June 24, 2016

0,,19291262_303,00We have all heard the news from Venezuela that the falling price of oil has led to a food shortage. One headline reads “Venezuelan economic crisis leads to food shortage”.
However, I would disagree. Food grows in my garden no matter what the price of oil is.
Years ago, Venezuela, under Hugo Chavez, imposed price controls on food. Neither the farmer nor the market could decide the price of the product, making it unprofitable to grow crops and to feed animals. The farmers hung up their plows and headed to the oil fields where they could earn a decent living. At that point the entire country became dependent on neighboring countries to supply the food, and as long as they were flush with cash, they could make this socially engineered pricing scheme work.
The problem is not just an oil price problem, it is a food production problem. For anyone to be secure, individual or country, they must be food secure.
I am old enough to remember the wage price controls that Richard Nixon imposed in the 1970’s. Ranchers stopped shipping their cattle to the market, and the grocery stores had empty shelves.
Food shortages in the present day United States are unlikely. We produce an abundance of food. However that food is produced in a few localized agricultural regions and is distributed, by trucks, throughout the country.
During Hurricane Ike every grocery store in Houston was mostly empty hours before the storm hit. When Hurricane Rita was forecast to hit Houston, an evacuation stalled in my little town of Hempstead, among others. The traffic jam was so bad that cars ran out gas while idling on the highway. Our grocery stores were totally out of food and water before dark, for a hurricane that was supposed to hit the next day. The hurricane moved east and missed Houston. The trucks came in and resupplied the shelves after each incident.
But what would happen if the trucks could not get back in? We had an example of that after Hurricane Katrina. Food shortages continued for days.
One of the reasons we do not grow more food in the cities of Texas is the state tax policy. Texas has one of the highest property taxes in the nation. Farmers need land. Land is taxed at a high rate. To counter the disincentive this generates, we have a method of adjusting the tax on agricultural land. Currently, county tax assessors require you have at least five acres, which is impossible to come by inside most urban areas. There is a five year waiting period, and usually vegetables and fruit are not considered agriculture, though hay is. This type of government interference in the market keeps urban and small local farmers from providing the food an urban population needs.
Unlike Venezuela, we are not at the mercy of the price of oil to eat, but we are at the mercy of trucks. When trucks quit moving, 5.5 million people in the greater Houston area could be dependent on a few hundred acres of local food. We need to incentivize farming in small tracts to attract more and younger farmers. To get that, we need property tax reform for farmers.
What Chavez did through price controls, America does through taxes and regulations.

Sheep wool for sale

June 17, 2016

Our sheep have been sheared and we have fleeces for sale. This is unwashed wool from Gulf Coast Native Sheep. It came straight off the sheep, into the bag. There will be vegetative matter in the wool. The sheep were not coated and they browsed in the woods at times.

skein of spun wool from 2014

skein of spun wool from 2014

A fleece from a sheep named Julia Child.

A fleece from a sheep named Julia Child.

IMG_5447 The fleeces weigh between 1 pounds and 4 pounds each. Fiber lengths vary. The price is $10 per pound. I will have some with me at the Eastside Farmers Market in Houston each Saturday.

Shearing Day.

June 13, 2016

Our sheep will be sheared this Thursday and we will have fleeces for sale. If anyone is interested in witnessing this it will start at 8:00am. If you show up you will be asked to help move sheep around.
This is unwashed wool from Gulf Coast Native Sheep. It came straight off the sheep, into the bag. There will be vegetative matter in the wool. The sheep were not coated and they browsed in the woods at times. These sheep do not have facial or belly wool.
The fleeces weigh between 1 pounds and 4 pounds each. Fiber lengths vary. The price is $10 per pound. I will have some with me at the Eastside Farmers Market in Houston each Saturday until sold out. Customers have been spinners, bedding/pillow makers, and craftspersons.
I would prefer not to ship. I want people who know more than me to see the wool before purchasing it. All wool is from our flock here in Hempstead, Texas. Fiber lengths of spinning wool vary from 3″ to 5″.

Random fiber sample 2015

Random fiber sample 2015

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skein of spun wool from 2014

skein of spun wool from 2014

Gulf Coast Native Sheep for Sale

April 29, 2016

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We raise Gulf Coast Native Sheep in Hempstead, Texas.
We still have a few Gulf Coast Native Sheep available for breeding stock. We sold many, bought some from another reputable farm and have analyzed our breeding goals. We have some ewes and a couple of rams available. Prices remain at $280 for ewe lambs and experienced ewes and $300 for ram lambs.  Many people want to start out with a breeding flock of two ewes and a ram.  We have some trios that are not too closely related for $850.
Gulf Coast Sheep are mostly parasite and hoof rot resistant. We do not vaccinate and we worm only if a lamb does not pass the Famacha test. No ewe lambs that have to be wormed twice will be in the breeding program. Ewes that produce multiple lambs that have to be wormed twice will be culled. No ram lamb that ever has to be wormed will be sold or used as breeding stock. We will, at times, make exceptions with our own breeding stock, but not the “for sale” 
stock.
We had 60 inches of rain in two months this spring and had no cases of hoof rot and one abscessed hoof, even though they were grazing in puddles of water as much as two inches deep at times.
The wet, warm weather is breeding ground for barber pole worm. Out of 29 lambs, we had to worm 8 lambs. Only two had to be wormed twice and they will not be in the breeding program.
We have had 100% fertility during our breeding and all lambs are born on pasture with no aid from humans. We do not have a barn or indoor livestock area. We average 1.25 lambs per birth. Gulf Coast Sheep tend to be smaller, reaching processing weight at about 10 to 12 months and yielding about 25 to 30 pounds of meat. The meat is exceptional and is listed on the Slow Food Arc of Taste.  They are fed grass, hay and alfalfa.  With the rains we have had in the past few years, they have had grass almost all year, making feeding economical.  The wool is fairly course with stable lengths varying from two to five inches.
Ours are raised on pasture with a variety of grasses, clovers, forbs, trees and brush. We plant winter cover crops to improve variety and weather tolerance. They tolerate our heat and humidity, but need access to shade when it is hot and sunny.
As parasites become resistant to dewormers, and warming temperatures move those parasites further north, parasite resistant sheep are becoming more popular.
The sheep are registered, or are lambs that are able to be registered, with the Gulf Coast Sheep Breeders Association. This breed is listed as “critical” by the Livestock Conservancy. Preserving this breed with its’ ability to adapt to the humid southern climate without chemical/medical inputs is important.
If you are spending lots of your time taking care of sheep and are loosing sheep to illness or at birth you might consider the Gulf Coast Native Sheep.
Sheep going out of state might require a healthy certificate and an additional fee of $100 per flock would be added for this.
A $50.00 deposit will reserve your sheep.
Please contact me if you are interested.

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