Wednesday, December 23, 2009

New Bunnies!!!

Just the other night one of my doe's had the first litter of bunnies on the Phelan Ranch!!

Doe #2 had 9 bunnies and they are all looking healthy and full of milk. I don't currently have any pictures but I hope that will change and get you guys something to look at in a couple weeks. Right now they spend all day inside the nest that momma made for them. I should have rabbit to for sale to eat in about 8-12 weeks. If you are interested let me know and I'll put you down for some. Rabbit meat will be $5 a pound. Average carcass weight will be between 2 and 3 pounds.

We're in the Rabbit business now!!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Survival Seeds!!

Sometimes I wonder what the government is doing to our economy and our society. I'm not ready to move out of the dear ole' USA, but I have started to do some heavy planning for the future.

The goal: To produce as much of the food we eat on our property.

I think we have the protein covered (beef, lamb, eggs, etc.) We've got water from a well and milk from the cows, but what about the veggies? I've gardened for the past two years, each year being more successful than the last, but gardening is still quite new to me and foreign to my parents and this goal is one we all share. So this year we are planning to plant quite a large garden for a couple of newbies and a not-so-experienced leader.

I got a tip about seed buying the other day and I wanted to share it with you. Hometown Seeds seems to have quite an array of seeds. The seeds I want to point you to is their Survival Seeds package. Designed to have you prepared in case of a crisis, here is what you get.

  • Includes an 8-page instruction booklet.
  • Enough seeds to plant 3/4 of an acre!
  • Non-Hybrid seeds produce true to variety seeds to replant for future harvests.
  • Optimum water content to increase storage life.
  • Double water tight packaging.
  • Hometown seeds is 100% GMO free!

So, as you start to plan for the future, do you have seeds for your gardens this year? Perhaps you want to plants some flowers next spring? Maybe you even want to tackle an herb garden? Or do you simply want to be ready for a crisis? If so, visit Hometown Seeds and I bet they can get you fixed up. I'm getting seeds from them and I plan on posting pictures all during the harvest. I never was an eagle scout, but I still like their motto... BE PREPARED.

P.S. I linked them in my new "Agrarian Links" gadget on the right in case you need the link later.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Salad Bar Beef

Big Red (photo by Muriel Norris Fahrion)

Before I went to Polyface I grew up on the best managed native grassland in Oklahoma, in my opinion. But not only in my opinion, but in others as well. In the year 2002 Phelan Ranch won the Outstanding Rangeland Management Award, an award that was presented by the Society for Rangeland Management (SRM) . Here is a little statement about SRM from their website that will help you fully understand the meaning of this award.

The Society for Range Management is the professional scientific society and conservation organization whose members are concerned with studying, conserving, managing and sustaining the varied resources of the rangelands which comprise nearly half the land in the world. Established in 1948, SRM has over 4,000 members in 48 countries, including many developing nations.

Salad Bar

So, as you can see my father, John Phelan, has been managing our ranch in a sustainable way for many years. As you might imagine, it was not big jump for me philosophically when I went to work for Polyface. On the Phelan ranch we have always focused of land and grass health. We have always called ourselves "Grass Farmers" and claimed to be in the Solar Energy business. You could even say that we are in the business of Sequestering Carbon.

Note: If you think that CO2 is going to cook the planet, buy Salad Bar Beef instead of a Prius! You be sequestering (capturing) carbon instead of merely using less!!!

For those of you not familiar with the term Salad Bar Beef, coined by Joel Salatin, here is a little bit from the Polyface website that will explain the term and the Philosophy.

Herbivores in nature exhibit three characteristics: mobbing for predator protection, movement daily onto fresh forage and away from yesterday's droppings, and a diet consisting of forage only – no dead animals, no chicken manure, no grain, and no fermented forage. Our goal is to approximate this template as closely as possible. Our cows eat forage only, a new pasture paddock roughly every day, and stay herded tightly with portable electric fencing. This natural model heals the land, thickens the forage, reduces weeds, stimulates earthworms, reduces pathogens, and increases nutritional qualities in the meat.

Enjoying the Salad Bar

If we began to think Holistically (that is thinking in term of a whole rather than the pieces), we began to realize that what we do with our livestock management has a tremendous and dramatic effect on the health of the surrounding ecosystem. We must ALWAYS be thinking of our environment as a whole, and how what we are doing affects everything around us. This includes the health of plants and animals, but also the health of our neighbor, be it proximately (chemicals, water quality, etc.) and/or ultimately (health and wellness of those consuming our product).

CAFO... Industrial Beef

The industrial food system is NOT thinking holistically when it builds a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO). It has broken livestock needs down into one part and forgotten about the rest of the ecosystem. It has taken a wonderfully created system, I call it the cycle of food, and broken it. Plants feed animals and animals fed plants. What could be more simple? Now, in CAFOs, we feed herbivores food they aren't designed to eat and, on cropland, we feed plants chemicals they aren't designed to consume. You will never convince me that manure from a cows rear-end is the same (in any way from the plants perspective) as petroleum based Ammonium from a tractor.

Before we go on lets not get confused about the livestock in general. Some environmental activists want to eliminate cattle all together. Well, why not? They are producing Methane, a highly destructive greenhouse gas and doesn't red meat cause heart disease and probably cancer?. Do not forget that tens of millions of Bison once roamed North America. That's not even counting all the herds of Methane producing ruminants in Africa, Asia, Australia, South America, and Europe. These animals were and are EXTREMELY vital for the health of the land. Some scientists even say that the very act of grazing (large tongue slurping up loads of grass and spreading saliva everywhere) is extremely important to the health of the plants and soil. And the people that consumed these animals not so long ago did not experience heart disease. Do not be fooled that cattle are the problem.

Mismanagement is the problem.

How do we solve this mismanagement? Should we call our senator? NO WAY. You just get frustrated and then they will pass a bill that will HURT the very people trying to manage land correctly. Instead, lets take what I call the "Voting with the Green Ballot" approach. You vote every day, usually 3-5 times a day with your dollar. What system are you supporting? Who gets your hard earned money? Is it the CAFO, or is it the Salad Bar Beef producer?

Anyway... I'll get down from the soap box and tell you about our herd.

Currently we have a herd of about 30 cattle dedicated for Salad Bar beef. We usually run about 400-600 stockers year around, but they are part of our custom grazing enterprise which I will discuss in detail on a later post. Our plan is to butcher twice or three times a year and sell Wholes, halves, and quarters of beef. If you are interested we will be butchering about June and need orders in by May. The sooner the better... like tomorrow. Once I get a website up and running I will post all specific dates for ordering beef, pork, chicken, etc.

Since I came back in October, we have been striving to feed our herbivores only what they are designed to eat. Rotational grazing is in effect and alfalfa hay and/or alfalfa pellets is used to supplement any protein deficiencies. We do not use Hormones to increase growth and we do not use antibiotics to fight infection. We want to build their immune systems, not prop them up in some unsustainable fashion.

If you would like to see first hand what we do, or have any questions either come and see us or leaving a question in the comment section. Here is a link to us on Google:

Phelan Ranch Location

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Life on the Ranch... A Mini-Series

I have decided to do a little mini-posting-series about the many enterprises on the Phelan Ranch. We have many animals and varieties, so I think each deserves its own post.

Here is a list of enterprises so far (more to come in warmer seasons):

Salad-Bar Beef
Salad-Bar Lamb
Salad-Bar Rabbit
Salad-Bar "Real" Milk
Pastured Pork
Pastured Eggs
Custom Grazing

I will work my way down the list with pictures and stories for each so you can learn a little more about our ranch. I'm always open for questions about anything... especially if it relates to one of my postings. So, if you are curious, put on your yellow hat and ask.

Thanks for tuning in!!

Your Farmer on a Ranch,

Grady Phelan

Welcome To The Ranch

Well, the time has arrived for me to start blogging about my personal farm. Many of you followed my blog about being an apprentice at Polyface Farm in Swoope, VA with the Salatin family, and now I hope you will continue to follow me on my journey onto my own farm... I mean ranch. I guess once you cross the Mississippi River farms turn into ranches. I don't know why, but they do. Anyway... Welcome!!