Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sweet Hills Farm

The Herd in the Summer
  Sweet Hills Farm is our place in southern Idaho.  It is 65 acres, a nice plot of irrigated land, and a very small farm for our region.  The farm is divided into three fields, plus our homestead which has a pasture, barn and corrals, riding arena, fruit trees a big gravel drive and parking/storage area, house and yard.  We keep two horses, summer steers for beef and a flock of hens.  Plus, the dogs and barn-cats.

     For many years we were building a herd of registered Angus cows.  Each year, we would breed the mother cows to an excellent bull, using artificial insemination (A.I.).  Then, in the spring, the babies would be born, which was the best of all!  We would keep all the little females (heifers), and raise them to become mother cows.  We raised the little males (bull calves) to sell to 4-H and FFA kids.  The kids would train them, feed them, and take them to the county and state fairs in our region.   These were extremely high quality animals, and they made great show steers.  In the summer and fall, the mother cows and calves would be on pasture, and then in the winter and spring, we would feed them alfalfa-grass hay.  It was something we all enjoyed very much.

That's Heidi on the far left, and Lady Diana, #515, in front.
Diana weighed 1,400 lbs., a huge cow.
 They were both real sweeties.
     But, in 2008, my husband, Craig, developed a wicked lung disease, which is ongoing.  He's doing fine, but he couldn't feed those cows all winter long anymore, because the hay-dust might get into his lungs.  Feeding that number of cows was too much for me to do by myself, so, in 2010, we decided to sell the herd.  I cried when my two favorite cows, Heidi and Lady Diana went down the road.

     Because we love the cattle so much, and have plenty of pasture, we buy a few young steers (castrated bulls) at the livestock auction each spring to raise over summer.  They eat the grass, and then in late fall, we sell them as beef to our friends.  It works out great.

     The three cropped fields are leased to our farmer, (who we hope to profile soon).  He farms our ground plus his own family farm and our neighbor's bigger farm.  Each year, he plants 3 different crops on our place. He rotates a different crop onto each field each year, to keep the soil healthy.  The crops that are grown on our farm are field corn (cow food), seed corn (seed to plant for corn), sugar beets (sugar!), dry beans (pintos and kidneys), soft white winter wheat (sold to Asia, for their special noodles) and carrot seed.
Dormant field, photo taken today 2/21/13.  The field
is bedded up in the fall, to retain moisture in the soil.
     As the year goes on, we will tell you about the different crops.  The most interesting is carrot seed, it's very special, and our farmer hovers over it all season long.  You see, our region is known for its ability to grow seed.  We have just the climate, water and soil for a variety of seed crops such as alfalfa, corn, carrot, onion, garlic and many herbs and flower seeds.

     Our farm is irrigated by gravity flow, using syphon tubes.  The irrigation in this region was developed in the early 1900's.  Of course, at that time, pumps and electricity for sprinkler irrigation hadn't been developed yet, so the water delivery ditches, field sizes and shapes were laid out following the natural contours of the land, so that the water could be delivered on the high side of each field, and flow gently down the furrows to the low side.  This is an old fashioned but effective and efficient method which is still used in many places all over the U.S. today.  When we begin irrigating this season, I'll take some photos of the tubes in action (it's really exciting-water coming out of a tube!)
     Thanks for reading!

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